Partner traumatised after out-of-control boat hits riverbank willow tree

The partner of a jetboater killed after hitting a tree is traumatised after a shocking high-speed tragedy marred a summer outing on a Hawke's Bay river yesterday.

Dale Baker, 51, of New Plymouth, died instantly when his boat spun out of control and crashed into a willow tree on the bank of the Ngaruroro River, 10km west of Hastings. His partner was in the boat when the crash happened just after midday.

Another passenger, Leanne Lilly also from Taranaki, was critically injured in the crash but by last night was in a stable condition in Hawke's Bay Hospital.

The three other people in the jetboat Bang On, including the dead man's partner, were treated at the hospital for minor injuries.


As police were responding to the accident, they also got a call from Baker's daughter in Taranaki, who had been told the boat's locator beacon had activated. Police had to tell her about her father's death.

A rescue worker at the scene said Baker's partner was "numbed" and "devastated".

A rescue helicopter landed on gravel in the river and paramedics waded through thigh-deep water to reach the injured crew.

Jet Boating New Zealand said three boats from the Taranaki branch had travelled to the river for the sanctioned "club run", and two turned back when the third boat, known as the "Tail end Charlie" went missing. They returned to discover the boat wedged under the tree.

"It's just a dreadful thing to be happening so early in the New Year," said spokesperson Paul Mullan.

"Every sport is dangerous and none of us like these accidents but every one of us accepts that there are risks in lots of things we do today and jetboating is no different."

3 Mar, 2013 9:30pm
3 minutes to read

Baker had been a member of the Taranaki branch for two or three years. He had previously jetboated on the river and had attended events on Taranaki rivers.

Mullan said the rest of the Taranaki boaties who were on the club run regarded him as an experienced and capable driver.

"They've taken a big hit today."

Mullan said it appeared the boat had got into trouble and skidded over shingle before slamming into willow trees. The craft had come to rest in ankle deep water.

Police Senior Sergeant Marc Clausen said the boat crashed into willow trees after losing control. Baker struck a branch and died instantly. All occupants of the boat were wearing life jackets.

The accident would be investigated by Maritime Safety and police, and the death has been reported to the Coroner.