Incident still baffles police

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2014

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A woman believed to have been a key witness to a serious boating incident on Lake Benmore is unable to provide police with clues on how it happened.

Senior Constable Bruce Dow released a photograph of the woman, taken on the same day the incident happened, pleading for her to provide her account of the event.

The woman did come forward, only to say she was visiting from Tasman and had arrived at the lake about five minutes after the incident happened.

John Gascoigne, 73, of Timaru, suffered spinal injuries after he became tangled in a rope while putting a boat in the lake near Twizel. The incident happened about 3.30pm on December 28 while he was assisting a relative in unloading the boat at the Ohau C ramp.

Mr Gascoigne suffered serious injuries including a broken neck and is now a tetraplegic, Mr Dow said.

Last week Mr Dow spoke to two key witnesses - a boatie who was out on the water at the time and the driver of the vehicle who was waiting to load their boat.

"I've got it confirmed that the rope was attached to the injured party's trailer, but it's still unclear if it was front, rear or middle, and whether it was tied or caught on the trailer."

Leading up to the event some "heated words" were directed towards Mr Gascoigne by the man waiting to get his boat out of the water, Mr Dow said.

He said he is not giving up hope that a "slam dunk" witness will come forward to provide more clues as to how the incident occurred.

"Even when I arrived, there was a horse shoe [shape] of utes and empty trailers. I couldn't get around. It was like a big traffic jam.

"There must be people out there that were sitting in the water waiting for their boat to load. There were boats out on the water getting a bird's eye view really."

He also hopes someone might come forward with images, either still or video.

"Someone would have snapped away I'm sure. Cellphones and cameras these days are a dime a dozen."

Mr Dow said the investigation was still ongoing, but police had not "even come close" to laying any charges yet.

"The investigation is still ongoing," he said.

Mr Gascoigne is still seriously ill in Christchurch Hospital's intensive care unit.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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