James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Crash charge pointless to fight, says jet boat driver

David Ramsay. Photo / Christine Cornege
David Ramsay. Photo / Christine Cornege

He spent months recovering from broken ribs, a dislocated kneecap and mangled teeth he suffered in a jet-boat accident last year.

But Dave Ramsay's pain continued when he received a summons to go to court for his part in the mishap that resulted in injuries to himself and two others.

Mr Ramsay, a 56-year-old Tauranga audio technician and jet-boat enthusiast, says he will plead guilty when he appears in the Morrinsville District Court to charges laid against him by the Waikato Regional Council for operating a vessel in a dangerous manner.

A close friend of his, also of Tauranga and also 56, was injured when his jet boat collided with Mr Ramsay's in August last year and is facing the same charge.

The pair were adventure jet boating in separate vessels on the Waiomu Stream near Matamata when the accident happened on August 28 last year.

Mr Ramsay thinks he was travelling at 40km/h when his boat crashed head-on into his friend's.

The impact shunted him into the front of his boat, partly trapping him and collapsing his steering wheel, knocking him unconscious and leaving him with four broken ribs, a dislocated knee and dental damage. His passenger suffered a knock to the head and was also taken to Waikato Hospital.

His friend's passenger had what was believed to be a dislocated knee.

Mr Ramsay said he was surprised the matter was heading to court after he said investigations by police, the harbourmaster and Maritime New Zealand found nothing wrong.

But asked if would defend the charge, he said: "Nope".

"Who would be an idiot to try and take on the Waikato Regional Council? They're too big. I just see it as a waste of resources, a waste of money and a waste of time.

"The guy (from the WRC) was down here a day after the accident measuring up my boat - when that happens you know you're doomed."

Mr Ramsay, who returned to work on Tuesday after a five-month lay-off, admitted to breaking a number of rules including travelling above 5 knots at the time of the accident.

"One of the maritime rules of the waterway is that you always pass on the right-hand side but I got caught nailed to a bank on the left. It was like I was driving on the wrong side of the road.

"Do you think you'd get prosecuted if you were driving on the wrong side of the road and had a head-on [collision]? I'm pretty sunk aren't I ?"

Mr Ramsay said he would likely be fined.

He is going to sell his 3.7m boat to meet the costs and downgrade to a smaller vessel, though he has no plans to give up jet boating.

WRC navigation safety programme manager Nicole Botherway said the incident, which could potentially have led to fatalities, was a reminder about the need to take extreme care while operating powerful jet boats.

"It's always important for people using jet boats and other craft to watch their speed around other water users.

"The rule is that craft should stick to five knots or less within 50m of other vessels or swimmers."

Mrs Botherway said the council used education, warnings and fines to reinforce water safety rules.

"And, where the situation is serious enough, the council is also prepared to take people to court over safety issues."

She urged all boaties to take extra care over the Waitangi Day holiday weekend when it is expected that even more people will be out on waterways than usual.

- NZ Herald

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