Boatie fined after biscuit-rider injured

MATT BOWEN AND JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 12:45 12/04/2013

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A Tauranga man has been fined $4000 after towing a biscuit rider into a bridge pile, leaving her with a torn muscle and flap of skin that required 14 stitches and ongoing treatment.

The incident, which happened on Lake Karapiro in January 2012, was part of a series of incidents on the water over the past few years that have killed or seriously injured people.

It has led to calls for reckless boaties to face tougher punishments and even have to gain licences.

Maritime New Zealand spokesman Lindsay Sturt welcomed the prosecution and said he'd like to see more of the same.

Currently there is no law requiring recreational drivers to have licences to operate boats, but Maritime NZ would look at this in the upcoming review of the National Pleasure Boat Safety Strategy.

The strategy, introduced in 2000, was reviewed by a forum of representatives from ACC, NZ Coastguard, Maritime NZ, Ministry of Transport and Water Safety NZ, among others.

The last review, in 2007, identified lack of lifejackets, bad weather conditions and lack of communication devices as areas that needed to be focused on in order to prevent fatalities.

Sturt said the biggest issues were speed, travelling too close to other boats and not keeping an eye on what was around them in the water.

"It's not rocket science, really."

Waikato Regional Council navigation safety manager Nicole Botherway said it was lucky no-one was killed in the 2012 accident.

The driver, Daniel Willis, was convicted in the Tauranga District Court yesterday of dangerously operating his boat and then failing to report the incident to Maritime New Zealand.

It related to two separate incidents involving Willis near the Horahora Domain in January last year.

Willis was operating his father's boat and towing friends on an inflatable ski biscuit on the lake.

The first incident occurred when one biscuit rider narrowly missed striking a protruding branch in an inlet that was a prohibited zone for boats.

A summary of facts revealed Willis was told to "settle down and stop being stupid" after that near-miss by his friend Chloe Henderson - the woman he later injured.

While towing Henderson under the Horahora Bridge, well in excess of the zone's 5-knot speed restriction, he slingshotted her into the path of a concrete pylon.

Henderson leapt off the biscuit at the last moment but her left ankle struck the southern end of the pylon.

Willis was fined $1000 and ordered to pay reparation to Henderson of $2350.

Judge Robert Wolff fined him a further $500 for failing to report the matter to Maritime New Zealand.

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"We encourage people to have fun on the water, but putting people at this kind of risk is unacceptable."

Botherway said Willis' behaviour could easily have resulted in a fatality.

SERIOUS BOATING INCIDENTS IN THE WAIKATO

2002: Speedboat crashed into an island near the Horotiu Bridge, on the Waikato River. A woman on board was left with head injuries.

2009: Genevieve Lewis, 9, killed at Lake Taupo when a boat ran over her after she fell off her waterskis. Driver fined $3000 and ordered to pay $20,000 reparation.

2009: Waiuku man Ross Irwin, 21, died when the boat he was a passenger in collided with a tree on the Waikato River, near Waiuku.

2010: Two jet boats collided head-on on the Waihou River, near Matamata. Both drivers fined $1500 and ordered to pay injured passenger $500 in reparation.

2012: Boat crashed into another at Horahora, on the Waikato River, and narrowly missed a two-year-old child in the water. The skipper had allegedly been drinking.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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