Fatal combo

The death of a 45-year-old Blenheim man who drowned in the Marlborough Sounds served as another sad example of the potential for disaster when alcohol and boating were combined with no lifejacket, the chief coroner says.

Craig Partridge, an Omaka Valley grapegrower, fell off a launch in the Endeavour Inlet area of Queen Charlotte Sound on September 3. His body was not found.

Chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean declared Mr Partridge dead during an inquest in Blenheim on December 4. His written finding was released on Friday.

The cause of death was most likely drowning after Mr Partridge fell off his boat, Judge MacLean said. Mr Partridge, his daughter and her friend went to Furneaux Lodge on his launch, Kamahi. Mr Partridge drank until about 2.30am. "It was immediately apparent that the level of intoxication of Mr Partridge was high," Judge MacLean said. Mr Partridge left the lodge with his daughter and her friend about 2.30am to return to the family bach. Mr Partridge took the helm but his daughter became concerned and took over the wheel. She thought she could see him but was confused by a large wooden bollard.

Within about five minutes of his daughter taking the wheel, Mr Partridge fell from the boat "without obviously any noise or sound or anything to alert the others", Judge MacLean said.

Mr Partridge was wearing a long-sleeve polo top, thermals and gumboots. He was not wearing any buoyancy device.

The weather was good and the conditions were generally calm.

The incident was something that happened with distressing frequency, Judge MacLean said.

"The combination of impairment with alcohol and not wearing of a lifejacket sadly is often a common denominator."

The Marlborough Express