Dead branch killer in boat crash

LIAM HYSLOP
Last updated 12:32 12/06/2014

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A man who crashed his jet boat died after being trapped between his boat seat and a fallen tree branch, the Coroner has found.

Dale Baker, 51, died as a result of the crash on January 4, Coroner Christopher Devonport said in his findings, released today.

The day had started with four boats from the New Zealand Jet Boater's Club setting out on the Ngaruroro River, near Hastings.

One boat broke down 30 minutes in, before two boats, including Baker's boat Bang On, became grounded in shallow water.

They ended up navigating into a wide channel but soon realised it was a dead end and they could not go back the way they came as they had powered over shallow shoal.

Baker turned the boat around to head downstream and look for another channel.

Another boat occupant, Leanne Lily, estimated they were travelling about 50kmh when she heard Baker say "Oh s**t", before putting the boat into reverse gear.

But it was too late.

The boat hit shingle, Baker lost steering and the boat continued in a straight line, hitting the bank and wedging under a large tree branch.

Baker ended up lying backwards, with a half-metre wide dead branch pinned across his chest.

His seat was in the recline position and both the seat and Baker were trapping Lily in her chest area.

Lily recalled to the coroner's inquest saying "Get if off, get if off", before blacking out.

Lily was eventually rescued but it was some time before Baker's boat was able to be removed from its wedged position and the branch was able to be lifted off Baker's chest.

CPR was given but he was not able to be revived.

He died from traumatic asphyxia, a traumatic compression of the chest which stops adequate respiration and circulation occuring.

Devonport said Baker was professional and safety conscious, and that his death was a tragic accident.

After the crash, one of Baker's friends said he was on the cusp of a new life.

The drilling rig supervisor, known as Snowy because of his blond hair, had his north Taranaki rural property on the market and was looking at sheep and beef farms in Manawatu.

"I think he had just had enough of the oil industry," said Waitara man Steven Lye, who had been friends with Baker for 35 years.

"He had been in it since he was 20 years old and he had got as high as he could go. He just wanted to do something where he could settle down and not run off all the time."

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