PWC kills joyriding teenager

A group of partying teenagers took to the water on PWCs (or jetskis), killing one of their own.

The group had spent several days partying and drinking alcohol, and then decided to take turns joyriding on a lake with three PWCs.

The games included travelling at speeds reaching 82 km/h and ‘whipping’, or making sharp turns close to each other with the aim of spraying water over the other vessels, which at times were as close as 2 metres. The group took turns to ride the PWCs, sometimes taking pillion passengers, while the rest waited on shore for their turn. Some riders wore lifejackets, but none wore safety helmets.

In this case, alcohol contributed to a lapse in judgement.
The driver of the PWC on the left was unable to swerve to avoid the passenger of the other PWC.
Maritime New Zealand ©2022

Toward mid-afternoon, the PWCs were again launched from shore. Two carried pillion passengers.

As the three vessels attempted to ‘whip’ each other, one passenger was thrown into the lake. The PWC following immediately behind had no chance to swerve away, and drove straight into the passenger.

The passenger disappeared under water and was not found, despite an extensive search initially on the surface and later by Police divers. His body was recovered four days later.

Safety points

  • Speed limits on the lake were clearly marked, and buoys indicated designated water-skiing lanes and swimming-only areas. The lake was suitable for PWC use, however the group of drivers flouted the safety requirement to not exceed 5 knots within 50 metres of another vessel.
    • The following PWC driver allowed no safety margin, and gave himself no hope of avoiding the fallen passenger.
  • The passenger was not wearing a lifejacket. Although he may not have survived the impact, had he been wearing a lifejacket he would have floated to the surface and been given immediate first aid.
  • Had this group worn safety helmets, the risk of head injury would have been significantly reduced.
  • This was an avoidable accident. The dangers of mixing alcohol with speed are as real in boating as on the road.
  • Two teenagers faced a charge of operating in an unsafe manner. They were convicted and discharged after they made a safety video promoting safe PWC practices.
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