Manslaughter conviction a tragic reminder for boaties

3 August 2017

Director of Maritime NZ, Keith Manch, said a manslaughter conviction today sends a strong and tragic reminder to recreational boaties to follow all basic safety practices when out on the water, in particular wearing a lifejacket.

Failing to wear lifejackets is one of several safety procedures that a 60-year-old Waitara man, Teiron Jones, had neglected to follow, resulting in him being charged by Police and convicted for manslaughter of Mr Erka Xu.

Mr Manch said this was believed to be the first manslaughter conviction of a recreational boatie in breach of Maritime Rules.

“If you are the skipper you are legally responsible for the safety of the boat and all on board. You can be prosecuted for breaching safety rules,” Mr Manch said.

“A boaties’ lifejacket is your single most important piece of safety equipment.

“About two-thirds of recreational boating fatalities would be prevented if boaties were wearing a lifejacket.”

Jones was convicted in the New Plymouth District Court and sentenced to pay $5,000 reparation to the victim’s family. He had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Xu.

Mr Xu drowned after a boat the two were travelling on flipped as they tried to cross the Waitara bar in 2015.

On the day of the accident, the two men had gone on a fishing trip and as they were approaching the bar at the mouth of the Waitara River on their return, the boat turned side-on to waves and flipped, throwing both men into the water. A second wave hit the upturned boat making it flip again and right itself.

Mr Jones managed to get back on board the boat, after a member of the public swam out to the boat and assisted him on getting on board. They searched for the other man, Mr Xu, and pulled him on board.

They made a second attempt to cross the bar, that time successful, and docked the boat at the Waitara launch area.

Medical assistance was given to Mr Xu but he was pronounced dead. He was married with a young daughter.

Due to a number of safety practices the defendant failed to follow on the day, he was charged with manslaughter.

Maritime Rules make it mandatory for the skipper of a recreational boat to ensure everyone on board is wearing a lifejacket at times of heightened risk. Crossing a bar is usually tricky and can be dangerous, and is often a time of heightened risk.

Neither men had been wearing a lifejacket during the trip, nor were there any on the boat. An emergency kill switch for the boat’s engine was also not onboard.

Jones also failed to take into account previous instruction from local boat skippers.

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