Club members 'shattered' by shock death

By Patrice Dougan

Police and survivors recover a jetboat that crashed, killing one and injuring four others. Photo / John Cowpland
Police and survivors recover a jetboat that crashed, killing one and injuring four others. Photo / John Cowpland

A man killed when his jetboat spun out of control and crashed into a tree west of Hastings at the weekend was an experienced boater who was "so looking forward" to the trip.

Dale Baker, 51, from New Plymouth died on impact in the crash on Saturday afternoon, in the Ngaruroro River, 10 kilometres west of Hastings.

Four of the passengers on board, including his partner, were treated at Hawke's Bay Hospital, one with serious injuries.

The father-of-two was yesterday described as a "very friendly, happy guy", who was liked by everyone who met him.

Pam Frederickson, secretary of the Taranaki Jet Boating branch, of which Mr Baker had been a member for two years, said he enjoyed living life to the full.

"He was always willing to be involved in anything and everything. And his partner Julie, they both were," she said.

She later added: "Anything that we were involved in he was there, with bells on just about. He really enjoyed the events and camaraderie that we seem to have."

Ms Frederickson said Mr Baker had been "so looking forward to the weekend", to take part in the jet boating activity.

Mr Baker was an oil rig worker who would "participate in any of the events that we had" during his time on shore.

He was among a small group from the club which had spent the previous weekend jet boating on the Mokau River, and enjoyed sharing his love of history with his friends.

"When we were up the Mokau last week, we were looking at all the history of the mining and things that were on there, and he has been in that area himself quite a lot and he was very knowledgeable on taking us all to show us the bits and pieces of history that were available," she said.

Mr Baker was considered an experienced jet boat driver among the club, with Ms Frederickson describing him as having "very good" skills on the water.

Club members have been left "shattered" by his shock death, she said, before breaking down into tears.

Mr Baker had two children from a previous relationship, thought to be aged in their late teens and early 20s.

Meanwhile, the woman who was seriously injured in the jet boat crash, Leanne Lilly, was said to be recovering in hospital.

Ms Frederickson said she was "on the mend, slowly".

"But I think she'll be in hospital a few more days yet."

- APNZ

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