Friend turned down Easy Rider trip

The safety equipment on board the Easy Rider has come under scrutiny as the defended hearing for Easy Rider owner Gloria Davis continues today.

Davis, the widow of Easy Rider skipper Rewai Karetai and director of AZ1 Enterprises Ltd, faces five charges. AZ1 Enterprises Ltd also faces five charges.

Witness Russell Milton Hughes, a Maritime New Zealand-recognised surveyor, said the safety equipment present on the vessel when he surveyed it was not sufficient for eight people.

The equipment, which included a four-person life raft, was suitable for three crew members operating the vessel commercially as a pot and line fishing boat, he said.

Vessels were required to have life rafts for all people on board, he said.

Photographs of the Easy Rider showed the vessel was carrying a dinghy, tied down to the roof, but this did not count as a life raft, Mr Hughes said.

During cross-examination, Mr Hughes conceded the minimum safety equipment requirements for a private voyage, not a commercial operation, were only a life jacket for every person on board.

The hearing, before Judge John Strettell, is expected to continue for two weeks.

Yesterday a fisherman with a skippers' certificate had intended to work on the Easy Rider.

Brandon Leask, the second witness in the Easy Rider defended hearing, took the stand at 4.15pm.

The defended hearing for Easy Rider owner Gloria Davis started before Judge John Strettell in the Invercargill District Court on Monday.

Davis is representing herself assisted by McKenzie Friend Jodie Harvey.

Mr Leask, a Bluff fisherman, told the court he held an Inshore Launch Masters (skippers) certificate and he initially intended to go on board with his qualification and work with Easy Rider skipper Rewai Karetai. 

Mr Karetai did not have a skippers certificate but he intended to be on board with his licence, Mr Leask said.

However, Mr Leask did not go on the commercial voyage because he and Mr Karetai were good friends, and he did not want to ruin the relationship by working together, he said.

A Maritime New Zealand manager said the organisation has taken several steps to avoid similar boating tragedies to the Easy Rider.

In her cross-examination this morning, Davis asked Maritime New Zealand domestic commercial operations manager Arthur Jobard what actions Maritime NZ took following a safety recommendation into stability (relating to vessels of that type) made in the Transport Accident Investigation Commission report into the Easy Rider.

Maritime NZ followed up on the stability issue and loading of the ship and the dangers of loading. Maritime NZ also covered safety management of the ship. It followed up with vessels, asked its inspectors to visit and talked to owners. Maritime NZ also expanded and covered safety management of the ship, the court was told.

Davis talked about the sinking of another vessel, the Kotuku, and asked what measures Maritime NZ took following it to avoid similar future occurrences. 

Mr Jobard said Maritime NZ immediately launched a campaign for fishing vessel stability, held meetings and discussed issues around loading and skippers. 

Maritime NZ also continued with its maritime safety inspectors to reinforce when vessels went for such work they needed to consider stability.

The Southland Times