Skipper was first class - survivor

Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014

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"I thought he was a first-class skipperman. A first-class fisherman."

These are the words used by the sole survivor of the Easy Rider tragedy, Dallas Reedy, to describe Easy Rider skipper Rewai Karetai.

Reedy was giving evidence at the Invercargill District Court defended hearing for Mr Karetai's widow and Easy Rider owner Gloria Davis.

The Easy Rider capsized on March 15, 2012, claiming eight lives.

Reedy said he had known Karetai for 20 years and had worked with him for about six weeks on the Easy Rider.

Karetai was "quite serious" when skippering, he said.

He had given him a safety briefing and ongoing advice on how he wanted things done.

On the day the Easy Rider had left Bluff, Karetai had given everyone on board a safety briefing and had shown them where the EPIRB, radio, cellphone, liferaft, and lifejackets were, he said.

Reedy said he had not made any inquiry as to whether Karetai had a skipper's certificate. "I took it for granted that he did."

While being questioned by amicus Jeff Walker he was asked whether there was anything about Karetai's seamanship or conduct that caused him to doubt his assumption that he had a skipper's certificate. Reedy said he thought the opposite.

"I thought he was a first-class skipperman. A first-class fisherman."

When Reedy arrived at Bluff on March 14, the boat was packed and everything appeared securely latched. It appeared to be sitting well in the water, he said.

There had been no talk about the weather but Karetai had told him it might get "a bit sloppy". Reedy said he was aware of the weather conditions but was not concerned.

He later described the moment the rogue wave hit, just after midnight.

"It sounded like a jet roaring."

The unnatural noise made him look up from where he was sitting on the deck and "all I saw was pretty much a sheet of water."

He had never seen anything like it, he said. The water covered the wheelhouse and swamped the deck immediately.

The boat was already listing and then "bang, it flipped'.

Another rush of water washed Reedy into the sea but he grabbed a handful of rope and pulled himself up onto the boat. Karetai would not have had enough time to put out a mayday call, Reedy said.

About two hours later he realised the boat was going down when he heard a hissing sound so he let go and clung to a 20-litre petrol container that had popped up beside him.

He was later spotted by a helicopter and picked up by a boat, before being taken to hospital.

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Reedy told the court he had no formal discussion with Davis about his employment on the Easy Rider and said the boss was Karetai.

When asked whether he knew anything about AZ1 Enterprises Ltd, he said no.

Reedy said he was not experienced enough to say whether the vessel was overloaded but said it was fully loaded.

When asked whether he would have gone on the boat if he thought it was overloaded and unsafe, he said no.

Bluff woman Meri Leask, who operates the Bluff Fisherman's Radio, also gave evidence yesterday, telling the court Karetai was a gentleman and she had never heard a bad comment about him.

The weather on the day the Easy Rider left Bluff would not have stopped commercial fishermen going out, and she had not been concerned when Mr Karetai told her he was going out.

Davis, the director of AZ1 Enterprises Ltd, has pleaded not guilty to five charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act and the Maritime Transport Act. AZ1 Enterprises Ltd also faces five charges.

The hearing, before Judge John Strettell, continues today.

- The Southland Times

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