24 Nov 2008

Dad paid 'little attention' to boat safety advice

5:23 pm on 24 November 2008

An Auckland man paid little attention to a safety briefing when purchasing a boat which later sank and claimed the lives of his children, a court has been told.

Lindsay Rowles pleaded guilty on Monday in North Shore District Court to operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk. He was sentenced to 250 hours' community service.

Erina Rowles, 8, and Travis Rowles, 5, died on Anzac Day last year when they were trapped in the cabin of the 7.3-metre sinking boat near Shag Island.

The children's mother, Tania Rowles, was in court to support her estranged husband and wept as details of the tragedy were recalled.

The court was told that Rowles paid little attention to safety instructions given while he was purchasing the boat just days before the accident.

On Anzac Day 2007, Rowles had been drinking and others on board had been using drugs, the court was told.

Rowles had been sleeping in a cabin between the children when he woke to find water in the boat. He tried to take emergency action by running aground on Shag Island, but water rushed to one end of the boat causing it to tip and sink.

The court was told the children had removed their life jackets to use as pillows.

The judge said no sentence can compensate for the loss of the children's lives. But the focus of the charge, bought by Maritime New Zealand, was to send a message of deterrence and education to the public.

The judge ordered Rowles to serve 250 hours' community service.

The Maritime Safety Authority said the decision to prosecute was difficult. Director Catherine Taylor said it was the authority's recommendation that Rowles should not be jailed.

However, Ms Taylor said some punishment was needed as Rowles failed to carry out a thorough safety check of the boat, resulting in two deaths.