Drunk boatie had dad fearing for son's life

By John Weekes

A furious dad says his 2-year-old son was nearly killed by a drunk boatie who who went on to cause another accident.

Waikato farmer Radley Hungerford was at the Waikato River on December 29, getting his van ready to pick up his boat after a day on the water at Horahora near Cambridge. Suddenly, another boat roared into view while Radley's children, including 2-year-old Asher, played on the beach.

"He was at full speed and he came straight back into the beach at my kids. And then at the last minute, one metre from the shore, in knee-deep water, he managed to spin the wheel and went straight into the back of my boat."

The Hungerfords met the power boat operator just after the crash. "He tried to talk to us ... he was so drunk we couldn't understand a thing," he said.

Radley said a police officer approached the boatie, asked him how much he'd been drinking, but made no attempt to keep him out the water.

"Then he started driving along the beach. Another boat towing two biscuits was nearly taken out."

Shortly after, the boatie's wake washed two children off a ski biscuit. The boat then allegedly struck the children's parents after they reached the shore.

Hungerford saw a report about the accident in last weekend's Herald on Sunday and contacted the newspaper.

He said he was told the 25-year-old boatie was a Waikato dairy farmer, though Hungerford did not know his name.

Waikato Regional Council navigation safety programme manager Nicole Botherway said an investigation into the day's events was still underway.

The boatie could face charges under Section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act, which makes "dangerous activity" involving boats an offence, regardless of whether injury or damage occurs.

It cost Hungerford more than $500 to fix the boat. "We didn't really give a stuff about the boat at the time. We left before I got angry."

Police spokeswoman Victoria Evans could not comment on the incident but said it is an offence to operate a boat in a manner which causes unnecessary danger or risk to any other person or to any property, irrespective of whether or not in fact any injury or damage occurs.

"Police can and do prosecute people under this Act, as can Maritime New Zealand," she said.

"Local councils can issue infringement notices to boaties for excess speed, not having an observer and not having lights on at night."

Six weeks ago, coroner Carla na Nagara reminded the public of the "very real risk of being drunk on boats" when she found Porirua resident Patrick Rosson died after falling overboard while urinating off a boat. Rosson was almost three times the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers.

- Hamilton News

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