Fines for jetboat crash



The driver of a Go Orange jetboat with 23 passengers that crashed in the Kawarau River in 2020 had party drugs ecstasy and MDA in his system, and a breath-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit for motorists.

On January 26, 2020, the jetboat struck two rock faces in succession — the first at about 80kmh — near the historic Kawarau Bridge.

Four passengers were injured, including a 16-year-old girl who needed emergency dental treatment for misaligned teeth, and a man who suffered a broken arm.

The company and the driver, Levi Prier — employed on a casual basis at the time — admitted single charges of breaching health and safety law last September, following a
Maritime New Zealand investigation.

Judge John Brandts-Giesen’s decision, released to Mountain Scene on Wednesday, said the investigation found the company decided in 2019 to stop randomly testing its casual drivers for drugs and alcohol, intending for full-time staff to be tested more frequently.

The ‘‘error of that logic’’ had been recognised and the testing system changed, Brandts-Giesen said.

However, Prier ‘‘knew he was under the performance-affecting influence of alcohol and illegal drugs’’ when he went to work that day.

Brandts-Giesen said he’d reduced the fines to be imposed on the defendants because of the impact of Covid on their financial positions.

The company was fined $150,000 and Prier $10,000.

They were ordered to share the costs of reparation: $1593 for the girl’s emergency dental treatment and $15,000 for her emotional harm; $6500 to her father for emotional harm; and $2500 to every passenger who filed victim impact statements.

The defendants’ contribution to the cost of prosecution has yet to be set.

Go Orange is the former name of a tourist operation that has subsequently been brought under the umbrella of the RealNZ brand.