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Lifejackets would've saved lives: Coroner

Last updated 13:28 25/02/2014

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Four drownings in four days at a popular but dangerous fishing beach came down to bad practice and might have been avoided if the victims had worn lifejackets, a coroner says.

Manurewa brothers Maka and Aisea Inoke and a third man, Hopapi Pepa, were washed out to sea on October 24, 2011, while net fishing near the river mouth at Port Waikato.

Four days later father of three Otumakavalu Vehikite, 32, drowned at Karioitahi Beach.

Vehikite was pulled into the water after the fishing net he and his friends were using got caught on seaweed.

Though the exact circumstances of the October 24 deaths were unknown lifejackets and professional advice could have helped avoid the tragedy, coroner Tim Scott said in findings released this month.

The three men had not been wearing lifejackets. They had not sought information from lifeguards at the Kariotahi Surf Club about the suitability of the area for net fishing.

"Had they taken such advice ... This may have meant not fishing," the coroner said.

Anyone going down to the water in New Zealand, particularly surf beaches, needed to do so with a great deal of caution, he said.

Vehikite was not wearing a lifejacket when he tried to assist a friend who had been swept out to sea.

"The area where these drownings occurred is known to be a popular fishing location, but a dangerous location," the coroner said.

"It is possible that two tragedies resulting in the deaths of four people at the same location within days is simply an unlucky coincidence. But it is more probable that this is bad practice.''

Lifejackets while net fishing could be a "lifesaver", he said.

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