Skipper Charged

9 November 2007

A court will decide whether the skipper of a boat on which his two children died endangered them by operating the vessel unsafely, says Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).

Following a detailed investigation into the tragic 25 April 2007 incident, MNZ said today it had charged the skipper, Lindsay Rowles of Auckland, under the Maritime Transport Act for “operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk”, after Erina (8) and Travis Rowles (5), drowned when their boat sank near Shag Island in the Hauraki Gulf. MNZ Director Catherine Taylor said the difficult decision to lay the charge had been made after careful consideration of all the available evidence and after receiving independent legal advice, which confirmed there was a case to answer.

“Cases involving any death – especially those of young children – are the toughest we ever have to deal with, and any decision to prosecute someone, particularly someone who has lost family members, is one of the most difficult we have to face. However, we believe we would be failing in our duty as a safety regulator on behalf of the thousands of other New Zealanders who expect us to ensure a safe maritime environment if we did not take appropriate action when we believe that safety has been seriously compromised.”

Ms Taylor said among concerns highlighted during the investigation was failure by the skipper to conduct basic pre-launch safety checks, poor general operation of the vessel, and a general lack of responsibility shown by all the adults on board.

She said the incident was a tragedy and that the decision to take legal action had not been taken lightly. “After long and careful consideration of the evidence, as well as the serious concerns raised during the investigation, MNZ believes there is a duty to bring this case before the court. Any further decision on what if any action should follow the charge now rightly rests with the court.” 

EDS PLEASE NOTE: AS THIS MATTER IS NOW BEFORE THE COURTS, MNZ WILL BE ISSUING NO FURTHER COMMENT.

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