Police are treating an incident at Lake Benmore in which a boatie was left paralysed as a car crash.
John Gascoigne, 73, of Timaru, suffered spinal injuries after he became tangled in a rope while putting a boat in the lake near Twizel.
The incident happened on December 28 while Gascoigne was assisting a relative in unloading the boat at the Ohau C ramp.
However, that boat drifted into the path of another boat waiting to be loaded on to a trailer.
Senior Constable Bruce Dow said some "heated words" were passed by the man waiting to get his boat out of the water.
He said that, as a result, the driver of the vehicle which had just unloaded the boat moved up the ramp to clear it.
During the manoeuvre, Gascoigne, who was holding on to a rope attached to the front of the boat, was "flung like a rag doll" into the side of the other boatie's trailer.
Gascoigne suffered serious injuries including a broken neck and is now a tetraplegic, Dow said.
He is likely to be in intensive care in Christchurch Hospital for up to seven weeks and will "almost definitely" be transferred to the Burwood spinal unit, he said.
Dow said the incident was being treated as a car crash because there was a motor vehicle involved, it was on a road and a person had been injured.
He wants to hear from witnesses, and thinks there would have been many.
"There was a truck load of people there that day and I know that the abuse drew attention - it was quite loud."
He was also keen to see video footage, if there was any taken of the incident, to get a better understanding of what happened.
Dow said the main mystery was in regards to the rope which Mr Gascoigne was holding.
"It is the other end of that rope that I am keen to know more about from witnesses as this is the end that [has] caused confusion and also how or why it became so tight that it flung the elderly man backwards into the [other boatie's] trailer causing his serious injuries.
"Due to conflicting witness versions, police are desperate to [speak to] any witnesses to this incident and, in particular, speak to anyone who was present and saw the elderly man prior to being flung into the trailer."
Anyone with information can contact the Oamaru police on 0800 426 7736, extension 34800 or email Dow at email@example.com
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