By TONY WALL
Speeding on a jetski almost twice as powerful as he had ever driven, millionaire Alan Gibbs headed towards his launch and tried to show off to his mates he thought were in his dinghy nearby.
The 60-year-old businessman steered the 1200cc, top-of-the-range Yamaha jetski towards the dinghy, hoping to spin around it and wave out.
But he applied too much throttle and the $20,000 machine he had borrowed from his wealthy friend Douglas Myers abruptly turned and ploughed into the dinghy, sending the occupants - not his friends at all - tumbling into the water.
Gibbs estimates he was travelling at 20 km/h before the accident near the Cavalli Islands off Whangaroa on January 5.
That is the equivalent of 10 knots and twice the speed limit 100m from shore. He had only ever ridden a 650cc machine in the past.
Gibbs pleaded guilty to a charge of driving a jetski dangerously when he appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday and was fined $3000.
He had already paid $5000 compensation to the occupants of the boat, plus $5000 to the Order of St John, which sent a rescue helicopter to fly two of the victims to hospital.
He immediately wrote out a cheque to pay for the fine and left the court with a firm "no comment."
The family he rammed - the Czerniaks of Auckland - are not happy with the money Gibbs has paid them and their lawyer, Paul Dale, is trying for more.
Mr Dale said last night that $5000 was not enough in the circumstances and if a settlement could not be reached with Gibbs' solicitors, civil action might be pursued.
Nicole Czerniak, 11, injured her back and her mother, Lee, hurt her ankle. Morgan Czerniak was badly bruised and a family friend, Lia Van Baaren, was badly grazed.
Mrs Czerniak was still on crutches as late as last week.
Gibbs' lawyer, Gerard Curry, told the court his client, who had no previous convictions, was extremely sorry for what he had done and had apologised. He had misjudged the power of the jetski.
Mr Curry submitted entries from Who's Who to show Judge Robert Kerr how his client had contributed to New Zealand society.
He said any conviction would hinder Gibbs' ability to travel overseas.
Judge Kerr accepted that Gibbs had lost control of a machine that was too powerful for him and said there was no question he was of good character.
He noted that Gibbs had already suffered a form of punishment in that his name was published in the media before he was charged.