17 Jul 2010

Jetboat driver convicted over tourist's death

6:57 am on 17 July 2010

Maritime New Zealand says the conviction of a recreational jetboat driver over a fatal accident highlights the dangers of skippers departing from established safe practice.

English doctor Paul Woods was killed two years ago when a boat being driven by Jeffrey Donaldson flipped on the banks of the Matukituki River.

In the Dunedin District Court on Friday, Donaldson pleaded guilty to operating a ship in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk to other people and was ordered to pay $27,500 in fines and reparation - $25,000 of it to Mr Woods's parents.

Donaldson is the former head of Jet Boat New Zealand.

Maritime New Zealand's manager of investigations, Steve van der Splinter, told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint that there are safety lessons to be learned from the conviction by all recreational jetboaters.

No matter how experienced a skipper might be, he says, poor decision-making and not following procedures can have devastating consequences.

Mr van der Splinter says the fatal accident occurred when Donaldson turned his boat sharply at speed in very shallow water.

Queenstown harbour master Marty Black says the standard of recreational jet boat drivers is generally good. There are always risks with adventure activities whether commercial or recreational, he says.

Suppression orders lifted

Details of the trial were suppressed until Friday to avoid confusion with a similar trial in the same court last week, in which a jury found a former Kawarau jetboat driver Ian Morgan not guilty on the same charge.

A boat Mr Morgan was driving flipped on the Kawarau River in 2008, killing Chinese tourist Yan Wang.