Kawarau Jet Fined £30,000+ For Safety Breaches

Our readers may remember when, in September 2008  Chinese tourist, Yan Wang, died whilst on a Kawarau Jet Boat excursion.

The craft she was in flipped at the confluence of the Shotover and Kawarau rivers. She was trapped beneath the 2.5 tonne boat and discovered 90 minutes after the incident, despite pleas from members of her party to look for her.

Seven other people were injured in that accident. Read “Jet Boat Death: we said to look under boat” an official report may be found here

The driver of the boat, Ian Morgan,  was charged with driving a ship in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk to others but was found not guilty at a trial in Invercargill District Court. Read Two different jet boat trials, two different verdicts. After the incident Morgan resigned from the Kawarau Jet Boat company and eventually  left for Australia

At the time Maritime New Zealand said it accepted the jury’s decision but there were still safety lessons to be learned.

The same jet boating company appeared in Queenstown District Court last Monday, charged with breaching safety legislation. Only this time they were found guilty.

From a report in Queenstown’s Mountain Scene we learn that Kawarau Jet Holdings Limited has been fined £30,000 for taking out clients in dangerous weather, plus another $5,000 for failing to report an incident to Maritime New Zealand.

On the day the boats set out, a little over a year after Ms Wang’s death, gale force winds had been predicted. All other commercial crafts had ceased operations but the Kawarau Jets went ahead.

The report in Scene said

“The local company had pleaded guilty to three charges – after two boats took paying passengers for a spin on December 18, 2009 in windy conditions, and for failing to notify MNZ when an engine on one boat was swamped by a wave, causing it to stop.

On the day, gale-force winds and heavy rain were forecast and no other commercial craft were operating because of the weather, the summary of facts shows.

There was absolutely no doubt these boats shouldn’t have been on the water with passengers in them,” Judge Flatley said…” more here

The judge added that customer safety had to be paramount, “not overlooked in favour of commercial gain.”

Not so much “100% Pure You” as 100% Pure profit?

Seventeen clients were aboard the boat on the day that driver Jamie Beer lost power to his engine when it was hit by a wave, five of them were children. Yet despite that incident driver, George Wallis, then took another boat out with 12 passengers in it including 4 children. Some say that could be reckless disregard for people’s lives.

A photo of the atrocious conditions that day has been published on Mountain Scene’s website.

Since 1995 the NZ Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) has investigated at least 20 occurrences involving jet boats. Three involved high-speed rollovers: one each in 1997, 1998  and 2008.