Easy Rider case under way

02:28, Jan 20 2014
Gloria Davis
Gloria Davis in the Invercargill District Court this morning.

A Maritime New Zealand prosecutor, in court today, said Gloria Davis knew her partner did not hold a skipper's certificate.

The hearing for Gloria Davis, who faces charges relating to the Easy Rider, started today in the Invercargill District Court before Judge John Strettell.

Maritime NZ prosecutor Brent Stanaway, in his opening address, said the Easy Rider capsized in March 15, 2012. It had been sailing from Bluff to the Mutton Bird Islands with nine people on board including the skipper, two crew and six non fare paying passengers.

One crew member, Dallas Reedy, survived.

The number of passengers on board exceeded the limit and the forecast conditions were rough, Mr Stanaway said.

The Easy Rider was a commercial fishing vessel owned and operated by AZ1 Enterprises and Davis was the sole director of the company, he said.


Mr Stanaway said Davis' partner Rewai Karetai, had arranged with a Maritime NZ safety inspector for the boat's inspection to take place on a day he knew he would be at sea. Mr Karetai, who acted as skipper, did not hold a skipper's certificate to command a commercial vessel.

Davis was aware Karetai did not hold a skipper's certificate, he said.

Maritime NZ domestic commercial operations manager Arthur Jobard, was the first witness to take the stand this afternoon.

While giving evidence he was questioned by Mr Stanaway, who asked if there was a master in charge of the vessel.

In this instance, he said no, there was not a qualified master as required.

Mr Karetai had deckhand qualifications but did not hold a certificate to command a commercial boat, he said.

The Easy Rider was also not allowed to carry any passengers, he said.

Davis will cross-examine after an adjournment.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission report, released in May last year, says the primary cause of the sinking was that the Easy Rider was loaded with too much weight, too high in the vessel, resulting in it having insufficient reserve stability for the intended voyage.

More than 25 witnesses are expected to be called during the defended hearing, which may not finish until next week.

Davis, the widow of Easy Rider skipper Rewai Karetai, faces five charges relating to the boat, which sank in Foveaux Strait in March 2012, claiming eight lives.

A Maori blessing by Maori minister Haranui Karetai started the defended hearing.

Davis faces three charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act and two under the Maritime Transport Act.

Davis has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

She is charged that, being a director of AZ1 Enterprises Ltd, she acquiesced or participated in the failure of the employer company to ensure no action or inaction of any employee while at work harmed any other person on the Easy Rider; that as director of AZ1 Enterprises, she acquiesced or participated in the failure of the company to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employees while at work on the Easy Rider; and that as director she acquiesced or participated in the failure of the company, as principal, to take all practicable steps to ensure that no contractor or subcontractor was harmed while doing work on the boat that he was engaged to do.

Davis is also charged that she knew that a master holding a skipper's certificate was required before the boat could be lawfully operated, and that the certificate was not held and that she caused or permitted the boat to be run in a way that caused unnecessary danger or risk to persons aboard.

Az1 Enterprises Ltd, of which Davis is the sole director, faces similar charges.

Nine people were on the Easy Rider when it sank - skipper William Rewai Desmond Karetai, known as Rewai, 47, Shane Ronald Topi, 29, Peter Glen Pekamu- Bloxham, 53, Boe Taikawa Gillies, 28, John Henry Karetai, 58, Paul Jason Fowler-Karetai, 40, Odin Nirvana Karetai, 6, David George Fowler, 50, and sole survivor Dallas Reedy.


8pm March 14 - Easy River departs Bluff with nine people on board, bound for Big South Cape Island.

2pm March 15 - The vessel was to rendezvous with a Southern Lakes Helicopter but fails to meet it. The helicopter pilot contacts skipper Rewai Karetai's partner Gloria Davis after the vessel fails to show.

3.25pm March 15 - The search and rescue log starts. The category 1 search is controlled by police. Helicopter and fixed wing aircraft are deployed along the east coast of Stewart Island following the intended route of the vessel.

5.04pm March 15 - An oil slick is reported near Bishop and Clerk Rocks on the north western end of Stewart Island. It is the first significant evidence in the search. Further marine vessels are deployed from Bluff, Halfmoon Bay and Stewart Island.

6pm March 15 - On site command is taken by a marine coastguard adviser.

6.10pm March 15 - Survivor Dallas Reedy is found in the water clinging to a fuel container. He is about 5.75km east-south-east of where the Easy Rider is later found.

8.30pm March 15 - The body of Shane Ronald Topi is found about 15km east-south-east of the resting position of the Easy Rider.

11pm March 15 - the HMNZS Resolution arrives on scene. A parallel search pattern is conducted with three to four vessels on either side of the Resolution searching in an east to west direction.

1am March 16 - decision made to commence an aerial night search using night vision goggles, but the search does not occur because of sea fog in the search area.

4.30am March 16 - the parallel search technique is changed to a north south direction because of tide and wind influences. During the night numerous pieces of debris is found through the search area including wood, gas bottles, fish tubs and lids, rope, oil containers and tarpaulins.

7am March 16 - two helicopters deployed - one to where the oil slick was seen while the other commenced a coastal search.

8am March 16 - The Easy Rider is found. Several commercial vessels from Stewart Island join the search, taking the number to 12. Searches of the shorelines of Dog and Ruapuke Islands are carried out. 

12.35pm March 16 - The body of Peter Glen Bloxham is found, 16.2km east-south-east of the resting position of the Easy Rider.

12.55pm March 16 - The body of Boe Taikawa Gillies is found, 15.5km east-south-east of the Easy Rider.

3.33pm March 16 - The body of John Henry Karetai is found, 5.25km east of the Easy Rider.

4pm March 16 - two helicopters continue searching the areas where debris was being found. The searching flotilla are told to search in the area of the oil slick because of increased reports of debris.

7pm March 16 - vessels begin standing down for the night, however the Awesome, Thetis and Jacob remain on site and are joined by the Casteaux from Stewart Island. The Resolution goes to Bluff Harbour to pick up diving assets.

10.15pm - The Resolution leaves Bluff Port and returns to the search location with navy divers and two police DVI team members. They search a five mile radius of the Easy Rider through the night.

7am March 17 - commercial vessels continue searching through the morning, adding to the efforts of the Thetis, Awesome, Jacob and Casteaux, which searched through the night.

8.30am March 17 - The navy dive team commence their dive operation, conducting seven two-man team dives on the wreckage of the Easy Rider and obtaining video footage. They confirm no bodies are in the hull.

3.30pm March 17 - Navy divers complete their operation. During the dive, other searches continue.

March 18 - unfavourable weather conditions prevent searching in Foveaux Strait.

March 19 - A search is carried out of New River Estuary and Oreti Beach. A helicopter searches from Omaui to Chaslands Mistake, Ruapuke and surrounding islands, Titi Island and Bench to Women's Island. Riverton coastguard searches coastline from Riverton to Stirling Point.

6am March 20 - the Tokonui Land SAR group completes a foot search of the shoreline from Fortrose to Chaslands Mistake.

7am March 20 - The latest RCCNZ SAD data is reviewed showing Ruapuke and surrounding islands and the area around Waipapa Point and Slope Point as areas of high probability. The police SAR team search from Tiwai Point to Fortrose using an Argo eight wheel bike. A new coil of rope and an oar are located.

2pm March 20 - the Invercargill Land SAR group and the Invercargill police SAR squad, assisted by the Riverton Coastguard jet ski and an inflatable dinghy, search from Omaui to Stirling Point.Nothing is found.

March 21 - Invercargill Land SAR and Invercargill police SAR travel by boat to Ruapuke Island and conduct a ground search of the western coast of the island, the Hazelburgh group and surrounding islands. The search is completed at 5pm. A container holding five flares is found washed up on the beach at Ruapuke.

4pm March 21 - a search suspension/review meeting is held at Invercargill Police station, where it the probability of detection and survivability is reviewed. It is decided further resourcing is not required and the search is to be suspended. 

March 25 - the inflatable raft from the Easy Rider is found at Masons Bay on the west coast of Stewart Island.

March 27 - a follow up foot search is completed by Land SAR from the Fortrose township through to Wallace Head, including the Haldane Estuary and Waikawa Harbour. No significant finds were made


The Southland Times