Easy Rider owner loses court case

NICCI MCDOUGALL
Last updated 09:35 19/03/2014
Gloria Davis
NICOLE GOURLEY/ FAIRFAXNZ
Gloria Davis in Invercargill District Court.

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Easy Rider owner Gloria Davis this afternoon has questioned the court ruling against her. 

Ms Davis, commenting on Judge John Strettell's decision, said it was difficult to understand how the district court and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) arrived at different outcomes.

One of those was: TAIC considered Shane Topi and survivor Dallas Reedy as passengers because they were being carried to the fishing grounds for when fishing started at the end of the recreational voyage, she said.

However, the judge found both were not passengers, but instead contractors, she said.

"I respect both organisations but right now I am struggling to see how two respected organisations can arrive at different results, and how people like myself and thousands of others who use their commercial boats daily for recreational use can comply with the law."

''I can only wonder at what effect the existing confusion with the rules between MNZ and Safe Ship Management companies as to recreational use of commercial vessels will now have on the boat owners and operators throughout the country who may all be affected by this decision.''

Ms Davis hoped whatever initiatives were adopted that there would be clear rules and regulations for all involved.

Ms Davis said she needed to read the judge's decision thoroughly to sort out where she stands legally.

Judge John Strettell released his reserved decision today, and found Ms Davis was responsible for the Easy Rider going out when she knew no one on board held a skipper's certificate.

Maritime New Zealand won its case against Davis, the owner of the Easy Rider, which went down off Bluff and eight people died.

Judge Strettell also found Davis failed to take all practicable steps to ensure no contractor or subcontractor was harmed while doing work on board the Easy Rider.

Another finding is that as a director of the company, she permitted it to be operated in a manner which caused unnecessary danger or risk to those on board.

The court acknowledges it has sympathy for Ms Davis, whose husband was the skipper, but says that issue will be dealt with at the sentencing.

No date has been set.

Earlier this morning Ms Davis said she was ''surprised and disappointed but feel I have stood and did everything I possibly could.''

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Ms Davis said her heart went out to the whanau and friends of the families who lost a loved one in a tragic Invercargill fire at the weekend. 

''In light of that this (decision) comes secondary.''

Family in the Invercargill house had gathered to mark the two-year anniversary of the Easy Rider tragedy. A woman died in a caravan on the property and others escaped from the burning house. 

Maritime NZ director Keith Manch said the verdicts should send a strong message to operators in the fishing industry.

"The decision to prosecute Ms Davis was not taken lightly, given she has already suffered greatly as a result of the incident," he said.

"However, the sinking of the Easy Rider was the worst maritime disaster, in terms of loss of life, since the sinking of the Wahine. As such, it was very important that action was taken that reflected the extent of harm - the loss of eight lives - and the very real responsibilities of those operating in the maritime sector."

To read the judge's reserved decision click here

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