Rogue wave 'like a jet'

Last updated 13:53 28/01/2014

Easy Rider defended hearing

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Witness and sole survivor of the Easy Rider tragedy Dallas Reedy says the rogue wave that capsized the boat "sounded like a jet roaring".

Reedy has given evidence at the hearing for Gloria hearing for Gloria Davis.

Eight people died when the Easy Rider capsized while sailing from Bluff to the Muttonbird Islands with nine people on board on March 15, 2012.

Davis, the widow of Easy Rider skipper Rewai Karetai, and director of AZ1 Enterprises Ltd, faces three charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act and two under the Maritime Transport Act.

AZ1 Enterprises Ltd also faces five charges.

Mr Reedy, 44, who had known Mr Karetai about 20 years, described his 10-year career as a fisherman and said he had worked seven as a deckhand. He had worked for Mr Karetai for about six weeks and before March 14, 2012, had spent about three weeks on the boat (Easy Rider).

Mr Karetai gave him a safety briefing and ongoing advice as to how he wanted things done. Mr Karetai knew the waters and islands around Bluff well, he said.

He was "quite serious" when skippering, Mr Reedy said.

Mr Reedy had no issues with any trips he went on with Mr Karetai, was not aware of any mechanical issues on the boat or any other issues and liked how it felt going through the water.

There was an emergency beacon, six life jackets, a life raft and a VHF radio on board, he said.

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

Mr Reedy told the court he was on the deck at midnight when the rogue wave hit: "It sounded like a jet roaring".

The unnatural noise made him look up and "all I saw was pretty much a sheet of water".

The water covered the top of the wheelhouse and swamped the deck straight away. It came from starboard side. When it went over Peter Bloxham said to unlatch the dinghy but the boat was already listing and then "bang, it flipped", Mr Reedy said.

Another rush of water washed Mr Reedy into the sea and he described hearing "the wee guy" (six-year-old Odin Karetai) scream then get cut off.

Mr Reedy grabbed a handful of rope and pulled himself up. He was still in shock and trying to hold on as he continued to thump on the boat trying to get a response but he did not hear anyone else.

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He said Mr Karetai would not have had enough time to put out a mayday call.

Mr Reedy stayed on the hull about two hours before he heard a hissing sound and knew the boat was going down. He then let go and clung to a 20-litre petrol container, which popped up beside him. He was about 2 or 3 miles (3.2km to 3.8km) from land.

Mr Reedy described trying to swim and drifting in the water before a helicopter spotted him. A boat then picked him up and he was taken to hospital.

No one had been drinking on the boat.

While being questioned by Mr Stanaway he was asked how he would be paid for the trip and Mr Reedy said it would have been a percentage of the catch.

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

Mr Karetai also had a rule if anyone was on deck they had to wear a life jacket.

While being questioned by Jeff Walker, Mr Reedy described the safety briefing everyone on board was given before leaving Bluff.

Mr Karetai showed everyone where the emergency position-indicating radio beacon was, the radio, a cellphone, life raft and life jackets. He told them if they went on deck they had to wear a life jacket.

Mr Walker asked Mr Reedy if there had been anything about Mr Karetai's seamanship or conduct that caused him to doubt his assumption that he had a skipper's certificate. Mr Reedy said he actually thought the opposite: "I thought he was a first-class skipperman, a first-class fisherman".

Mr Walker asked if he had ever seen a rogue wave like it.

"Never, not once."

Mr Reedy told the court he had no formal discussion with Davis about his employment on the Easy Rider and when asked who the boss was, he said Spud (Rewai Karetai). When asked if he knew anything about AZ1 Enterprises Ltd, he again said no.

Judge Strettell told Mr Reedy one person was concerned at what he believed was overloading of the vessel and asked how he felt. Mr Reedy said he was not experienced enough to say if it was overloaded but it was fully loaded, he said.

Davis then asked Mr Reedy if he would have been on the boat if he thought he was overloaded and unsafe. He said no.

The questioning of Mr Reedy has finished.

Earlier today, Bluff woman Meri Leask described Mr Karetai as a gentleman.

Mrs Leask old the court this morning she had operated the Bluff Fisherman's Radio for 34 years and knew the town's fisherman and community well.

Easy Rider skipper Rewai Karetai was a gentleman, Mrs Leask said.

He did not have a bad reputation as a fisherman and she had never heard a bad comment about him, she said.

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 had called, telling her he was going out, she said.

While being cross examined by (Christchurch) crown solicitor Brent Stanaway Mrs Leask conceded Mr Karetai did not tell her there were eight people on board but instead seven.

Mr Stanaway asked her if she "raised her eyebrows" about the number of people on board. She said no because Mr Karetai was the skipper and knew what he could and could not do.

Mr Stanaway asked Mrs Leask about a phone call she received from a friend the night Easy Rider left Bluff voicing his concerns about the vessel being overloaded. Mr Stanaway asked her if her friend had asked Mrs Leask to do something about it but she said Mr Karetai was the skipper and knew what to do. "I don't question any of the commercial guys."

THE CHARGES

The charges Gloria Davis faces: 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 a 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 faces similar charges.

- The Southland Times

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