A New Zealand boat captain linked to the deaths of two passengers on a Caribbean boat incident was "grossly negligent", a jury has been told.

Stephen Fossi is charged with two counts of manslaughter over the deaths of Jamaican national Howard Anderson and US woman Kari Anne Way in January last year. They were among a number of people aboard the 33-foot Inevitable, which was captained by Fossi at the time it hit rocks in the vicinity of Cow Mouth, near Leverick Bay in the British Virgin Islands.

Fossi appeared in the High Court in the British Virgin Islands this week, Fairfax reported, where the prosecution alleged he was a negligent captain, who operated the boat at an unsafe speed, while under the influence of alcohol. He also failed to ensure his passengers were wearing life-jackets, the prosecution said.

Witness Mincainton Laurent, who was on board the boat, told the court Fossi took them to Bitter End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda, where they spent five hours eating, drinking and playing games, before moving onto another cage.

Advertisement

He did not remember Fossi being impaired by alcohol, Mr Laurant said, but recalled Ms Way asking if she could take the steering wheel. He did not know whether Ms Way did take control of the boat, because he was talking to another passenger, he said, but the boat crashed into rocks a few minutes later.

Mr Anderson's body was found motionless on the boat floor, while Ms Way was found in the water nearby, reportedly partly eaten by sharks.

Fossi was charged last March over the deaths.

In a statement to the victim's families, issued a day after his court appearance on March 26, 2015, Fossi said he was "devastated" by the deaths of "two very close work colleagues and friends of mine".

"I use this opportunity again today to extend to the families of the two people who tragically lost their lives, my sincere condolences and prayers to those families."

All three were employed by Oil Nut Bay resort.

Three others were injured in the incident.