5 Dec 2016

Kayak operator to pay $325k over tourist deaths

8:40 pm on 5 December 2016

A Lake Tekapo tourism operator who pleaded guilty over the deaths of two overseas students ran an "incompetent" operation that breached safety protocols, Maritime New Zealand says.

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Lake Tekapo Photo: Wikicommons

Kayak hire operator Ricky Hartnett has been ordered to pay almost $325,000 in reparations after the two tourists' deaths on the lake in September last year.

Mr Hartnett hired kayaks to 11 overseas students, five of whom were tipped into the water by strong winds.

American Daniel Hollnsteiner and Briton James Murphy died. Three others were hospitalised for extreme hypothermia.

In the Timaru District Court today, Mr Hartnett admitted failing to take all practical steps to prevent harm to others and operating a ship without holding the appropriate maritime document.

Maritime NZ spokesman Harry Hawthorn said Mr Hartnett "didn't get very much right".

Mr Hartnett did not have an adequate safety and emergency management plan in place. The plan he did have was not properly activated.

"He reacted very slowly and in a confused way and that led to people dying," he said.

Mr Hawthorn says there were several safety breaches, including Hartnett failing to understand the hazards of operating in the cold conditions of Lake Tekapo.

"He didn't properly assess his clients' experience, in terms of the activity, or deliver a robust safety briefing."

Mr Hawthorn said Mr Hartnett operated outside the law and he wanted others to learn from this case.

"I hope it sends a message that people need to take the responsibilities very seriously because people's lives are at stake if they get it wrong."

Mr Hartnett must pay $324,500 in reparation. Hollnsteiner and Murphy's families will get $115,000 each. The three students who were hospitalised for hypothermia will each receive $15,500. The remaining six students who were rescued will get $8000 each.

Mr Hartnett must complete 200 hours of community work.

Judge David Saunders said he would also have imposed a fine of $70,000, but chose not to because of the defendant's financial circumstances.