28 Nov 2016

Boatie blames Francie skipper for Kaipara Harbour deaths

8:51 pm on 28 November 2016
The Francie, a fishing charter vessel thought to have got into trouble on the Kaipara Harbour.

The Francie, a fishing charter vessel that capsized on the Kaipara Harbour. Photo: Francie Charters / Facebook

A boatie has blamed Francie skipper Bill McNatty for Saturday's tragedy, saying he should not have tried to cross the bar in the rough conditions.

Seven men, including Mr McNatty, died, while another is presumed drowned after the fishing charter vessel capsized in the Kaipara Harbour. Three men survived.

Tony Walles manages another charter vessel, the Kaipara Cat, and said he was out on the water on Saturday, but did not cross the bar.

"The minute he decided to go out, he was playing with people's lives," he said.

Mr Walles said crossing the bar on Saturday was so dangerous that it was a "coin toss" as to whether they would make it.

"When he went out it may have been debatable, but when he was coming home there was no doubt about it - that wind had really got up."

"I don't know why he would want to actually go over the bar in those conditions. There's no logic to him doing that. There really isn't. You know 'oh hang on a minute, we'll toss the coin and see if we're ever going to get back'. That's exactly how it was."

He said he would talk to police. People were being too PC, too polite about it, he said.

"There were six boats down there. Bill was one of them and he was the only clown that went across the bar."

Mr Walles said he was audited by Maritime NZ and told them of his concerns about Mr McNatty.

"And Bill went past and I said to these guys 'that's the guy you guys should be spending time with. He needs sorting out. He is going to kill somebody.' And they just sought of go 'oh yeah, it's pretty hard to police and no it's very awkward to do that'."

He said he would have made it compulsory for people on his boat to wear lifejackets.

"That skipper, not only should he have been wearing a jacket but every man on board, without a doubt. It's just common sense."

Maritime New Zealand said the safety plan for boats used for tourist and charter fishing meant there must be enough lifejackets. Everyone must wear one unless the Skipper deemed it safe not to.

It said lifejackets must be worn when crossing a bar and at all times in adverse weather.

Maritime New Zealand said all commercial vessels were checked. Any boat cleared for coastal waters could cross a bar.

It said the Francie was found to be safe and serviceable and fit for her intended use - inside and outside the Kaipara Harbour.

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