Kawarau River tragedy – jetboat at fault, says official source.
A senior official says the dead jetboat driver was at fault in Monday’s Kawarau River tragedy.
Queenstowner Brett Singleton was driving the private jetboat which collided with a jetski – Singleton and one of his passengers died, a young couple on the jetski are seriously injured.
A third passenger on the jetboat, understood to be Singleton’s nephew Paul Singleton, escaped with only minor injuries.
The official – who insists on anonymity because of the current investigation – says jetboat driver Singleton broke the maritime rule of always sticking to the right-hand side of the river.
Singleton and his two passengers were fishing in a bay near Boyd Road before he pulled out into the river proper.
Instead of immediately going over to the right-hand bank to travel upriver, says the source, Singleton “had a little play, he went behind the trees [overhanging the left-hand riverbank] and travelled another 50-80 metres up the river [on the left] and he came out from behind a virtually blind corner.
“He was quite close in and the jetski just hit him straight on.”
The jetboat was planing at “a reasonable clip” of about 50kmh.
“[The jetski driver] would’ve come round the corner and had only seconds to react, and basically T-Boned him.”
It’s understood none of the men on the jetboat were wearing lifejackets.
Singleton reportedly had more than 20 years’ jetboating experience and was known to be a careful driver.
“The sad part about this is, here’s a guy who is very experienced and he knew the rules. And he was on the wrong side of the river and he didn’t have a lifejacket,” the official says.
Authorities won’t yet publicly state which vessel was in the wrong but confirm one vessel was on the wrong side of the river.
Queenstown Lakes District Council boss Duncan Field is urging the community to “lift its game” when on the water by always wearing a lifejacket and following basic boating rules.
Two die, two in hospital
A jetboat collides with a jetski on the Kawarau River on Monday at 7.30pm. Jetboat driver Lawrence Brett Singleton, 51, and passenger Anton Oskar Woitasek, 34, both Queenstowners, are killed and Invercargill jetskiers Mark Clay, 21, and Emma Eckhold, 19, are choppered to Dunedin Hospital. Eckhold remains in intensive care while Clay is “progressing favourably”. S
ingleton’s and Woitasek’s bodies are found by police divers on Tuesday morning.
Jetboat co. called for ‘control centre’
Queenstown’s oldest commercial jetboat operator called for a “river control centre” three weeks before Monday’s tragic accident.
Kawarau Jet appealed to Queenstown Lakes District Council for a better means of river communication – “similar to an airport control tower” – during submissions to QLDC’s new waterways bylaw.
The company told QLDC communication between all vessels – commercial and private – operating in “high risk areas” like the Kawarau and lower Shotover Rivers is “absolutely necessary to ensure the safe navigation of such waterways”.
The only “practical” way of doing this is for QLDC to set up an official control centre and get all vessels using the rivers to carry necessary communications equipment, says Kawarau Jet’s submission.
QLDC’s current rules are “neither practical nor workable”.
If the council doesn’t like this idea, the company suggests “restricted zones” should be imposed so commercial operators can run communications with recreational vessels.