Queenstown jet boat crash drivers fined

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Two commercial jet boat drivers who crashed into each other on the Dart River near Queenstown injuring a passenger have fined a total of $12,000.

Simon Thomas Collins, of Cromwell, and Shayle Andrew Thompson, of Queenstown, were both fined $3000 and ordered to pay $3000 each in reparations to the victim when they appeared for sentencing in Queenstown District Court yesterday.

The victim, an air hostess from the United States, suffered a broken collar bone in the January accident.

Collins and Thompson, working for Dart River Jet Safaris Ltd at the time, both pleaded guilty to a charge of causing unnecessary risk or danger to those on board.

Collins (27), who has more than 2000 hours’ experience, was travelling upstream with 11 passengers.

Thompson (39), with more than 4000 hours’ jet boat experience, was travelling back down the river along after dropping off a group for an activity.

The court heard both experienced drivers were mystified as to how the accident had occurred on a wide section of the Dart River in clear visibility.

Judge Kevin Phillips says: “Mistakes in your industry result in tragedy.

“All of us who have had some history with the waterways in this area know the tragedies that have repeated themselves due to very small errors of judgement by operators.”

Both men are no longer employed by the company.

Judge Phillips said: “In my view, you’ve totally let your industry, your employer and yourselves down.

“It is vital each operator abide by the clear rules. Thompson you were required to keep to the right, Collins you were required to give way to the boat on the downstream.

“You were both fully aware of this. Neither of you acted appropriately.”

The victim had to give up her job owing to her injury and relied on her husband’s care.

Both men were said to be remorseful by their counsels and did not expect to work in the industry again.

The charges were prosecuted by Maritime New Zealand.

Maritime New Zealand compliance manager south David Billington said the sentences reflected the need for those working in the adventure tourism industry to make safety their main priority.
“Not only can serious injuries occur when things go wrong, but New Zealand’s reputation as a safe holiday destination is put at risk,” Billington said.