Patrice Dougan

Patrice Dougan is a NZME. News Service reporter based in Auckland.

Jet-boater's death a 'tragic accident'

Police move the jetboat down river. Photo/Paul Taylor
Police move the jetboat down river. Photo/Paul Taylor

A jet-boater died after he was crushed under a tree branch when his boat crashed into a riverbank, a coroner has ruled.

Dale John Baker, 51, became wedged under the large tree branch and was unable to be resuscitated by others in the boat -- including his partner Julie Williams -- during a jet-boating trip on the Ngaruroro River in Hawke's Bay on January 4.

He died at the scene.

Despite every effort to move the branch or the boat, nothing could be done to save his Mr Baker's life, coroner CJ Devonport said in a report into his death, released today.

Mr Baker was driving his boat Bang On with his partner in the front passenger seat, and three other friends on board, including a 12-year-old boy, when the crash occurred.

He lost control of the boat while attempting to find a way out of a dead-end channel.

As he turned into another channel, one of the passengers heard him say, 'oh s***', and try to put the boat into reverse before crashing into the riverbank.

His partner, Ms Williams, said she remembered "ducking down and the boat suddenly stopping".

When she looked up she saw Mr Baker lying backwards with a branch, about 500mm in diameter, across his chest and with his seat in a recline position, the coroner's report said.

His seat was trapping a passenger, Leanne Lilly, behind him, who blacked out.

Ms Williams tried to reverse the boat back, activated a personal locator beacon and called emergency services. Others on the boat freed Ms Lily, but Mr Baker was unresponsive, with blood coming from his mouth, nose and ears.

It was not until two boats arrived to help that they were able to free Mr Baker, but he could not be resuscitated.

Forensic pathologist Dr Katherine White said the tree branch had crushed his chest, fracturing his ribs and preventing him from breathing. She gave the cause of death as traumatic asphyxia.

Coroner Devonport described Mr Baker's death as a "tragic accident".

- APNZ

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