Jet boat skipper ordered to pay reparation of NZ$10,400 after collision with kayaker

A man has been ordered to pay reparation of NZ$10,400 by the Whanganui District Court for a jet boat collision with a solo kayaker on the Whanganui River in November 2020.

The court did not impose a fine due to the financial capacity of the defendant.

Maritime NZ Central Compliance Manager Michael-Paul Abbott said the case sends a strong message of the importance of maintaining good visual lookout during all weather conditions, and adjusting speed accordingly.

“We know that weather can change at a moment’s notice,” said Mr Abbot, “so it’s imperative that a skipper stays focused, adjusts their speed, and keeps a good visual watch in all weather conditions.”

On the morning (local time) of November 18, 2020, Mr Wanihi Butler was skipper of Wawahia, a jet boat owned by the Department of Conservation (DOC). Mr Butler is a ranger employed by DOC.

A kayaker was traveling downstream on the Whanganui River and sighted Wawahia, then paddled to the side of the river to give the other vessel space.

At approximately 20 metres away, Wawahia accelerated and then collided with the kayaker, who was tipped into the river. The kayaker suffered multiple injuries to their ribs, lungs and shoulder.

Mr Butler failed to maintain a proper lookout by all available means appropriate in the circumstances and the conditions, and did not give way to the kayaker traveling downstream.

Mr Butler was charged under the Maritime Transport Act 1994, s 65(1)(a) for breaches of the Maritime Rules causing unnecessary danger or risk. This risk eventuated with the collision with the kayaker.


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