Boatie to pay $17,500 after running over diver

The court has ordered an Auckland boatie to pay $17,500 in reparation after seriously injuring a diver who he ran over in the water. In July Carl Whiteman pleaded guilty under the Maritime Transport Act.

The diver suffered significant lacerations to his head needing eight staples, a broken arm and lacerations to his arm requiring numerous stitches. He was off work for 12 months.

The accident occurred north of Auckland between Ti Point and Omaha, on 5 February 2017. A prominent sign at the boat ramp alerts skippers that the area is popular with divers and snorkelers and emphasizes the need to keep a proper lookout and proceed at a safe speed. It was a sunny day with fairly low wind.

The diver had swam out 200 metres from Ti Point with an orange buoy and with a blue and white dive flag attached to his spear gun by a 20 metre line.

Mr Whiteman, with three passengers in his 3.5 metre inflatable powerboat, said he saw the orange buoy but did not “register” the dive flag on the buoy. He assumed the buoy marked a crayfish pot. The diver was looking down for fish no more than 20 metres from his buoy and flag when he was run over by Mr Whiteman’s boat travelling at between 10 and 15 knots (19 to 28 km/h). The incident could easily have been fatal, the court was told.

Maritime Rules impose a speed limit of 5 knots (9 km/h) within 50 metres of a person in the water and 200 metres of a boat flying a dive flag. They also require every vessel to maintain a proper look-out, to be fully aware of the situation and risk of collision.

Mr Whiteman turned his boat around to help the diver, and one of the passengers called the Police.

They took the diver to Ti Point wharf where they were met by Police and an ambulance. “I urge every new skipper to get training and help from a boat club or Coastguard Boating Education, “said Neil Rowarth, Maritime New Zealand Northern Regional Manager. “It’s not hard, it’s not expensive and you get to meet boaties and have some fun learning.

[1] Maritime Transport Act 1994, Section 65(1): “Every person commits an offence who operates … any ship or maritime product in a manner which causes unnecessary danger or risk to any other person …”

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