A Queenstown jetboat operator famed for giving the Royals a thrill ride last year is reeling after its second crash in three months.
Shotover Jet general manager Clark Scott says he’s confident Saturday’s crash was not due to a mechanical issue.
Five people, including overseas visitors, were injured when the boat hit a rock as it shot through a narrow twisty canyon on Shotover River, just after 4pm.
A 12-year-old girl was airlifted by helicopter to Queenstown’s Lakes District Hospital with suspected back injuries.
She was ambulanced to Southland Hospital in Invercargill for tests but discharged earlier today and has continued her family holiday.
The other four sustained only minor injuries and were discharged from Lakes District Hospital on Saturday.
In October, another of the firm’s boats clipped a canyon wall on the same stretch of river. No one was injured.
An investigation by Maritime New Zealand pinpointed a “lapse of judgement” by the driver.
Maritime NZ identified the need for the firm to improve its monitoring of drivers after their initial training, particularly during the early stages of operational driving.
Scott confirmed Saturday’s driver is also a “newer” member of staff but not the same driver as in the October crash.
Saturday’s driver has been stood down while an investigation is conducted.
“He has a level of experience, as all our drivers do from the first day they take to the river commercially,” Scott said.
“We have an extensive training programme with a huge focus on health and safety.
“He is a newer member of staff but at this stage we’re conducting an investigation and I’m not in a position to make any further comment on that.”
Shotover, which carried the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at speeds reaching 85kmh through the canyon near Edith Cavell bridge during their Royal tour in April, gives its drivers 120 hours of training, compared with the industry standard of 50 hours.
The company has more than a dozen drivers, some of whom have been with the company more than a decade.
Maritime NZ spokesman Steve Rendell said it is investigating. Investigators are likely to arrive in Queenstown today.
Shotover Jet resumed operations yesterday morning at 8am after clearance from Maritime NZ.
Scott said: “We’re confident it’s not mechanical hence why Maritime New Zealand has allowed us to operate today.”
Scott said the damage to the boat was “pretty minimal” and it was driven back to the river base.
He confirmed the driver had driven other trips that day but would not say how many.
“Our drivers have a maximum number of trips in a given day and over a week,” Scott says.
“We have different shifts the drivers undertake – some days they might have a late start, others an early finish.
“We monitor their exposure to driving hours to make sure they’re getting adequate breaks during the day.
“He had driven during the day. We don’t believe it’s [fatigue] an issue at this stage, but don’t know.”
Queenstown harbourmaster Marty Black said the incident happened at the entrance to the second gorge.
Black says the river was flowing at a rate of about 20 cubic metres per second.
“It goes down to 10, so medium flow and clear. It wasn’t too bad,” Black says.
Both Scott and Black praised the emergency services and Shotover Jet staff for their response.
“Staff did an outstanding job in what is a very unfortunate, difficult situation,” Scott says.
Shotover Jet, owned by Ngai Tahu Tourism, is the only company permitted to operate in the Shotover River canyons.