Five minutes before he fell into Papanui Inlet and drowned, a
Portobello man talked about wearing a life jacket the next
time he went fishing.
Robert ''Bob'' Wilfred Clearwater (75) died while net fishing
with his 80-year-old brother Brian at Papanui Inlet about 2pm
on January 29 last year.
Neither man was wearing a life jacket and none were in their
small aluminium dinghy.
The brothers tied one end of a fishing net to secure seaweed
and attached the other end to the dinghy, as they had done
many times previously.
As Bob Clearwater started pulling in the net, he stood up on
one side of the dinghy, causing it to capsize and tip both
men into the water.
Just five minutes earlier, Bob had said ''next time I come
out here I'm bringing a life jacket'', Brian Clearwater said.
He gave evidence yesterday at an inquest in Dunedin before
coroner Richard McElrea, of Christchurch.
''Whether he [Bob] had a premonition or not, I don't know,''
Mr Clearwater said.
He managed to hold on to a fishing buoy and told his brother
to do the same, but it appeared Bob had swallowed a lot of
Bob was wearing gumboots and was not a strong swimmer.
A man working nearby saw the incident and rushed to help,
paddling out on a surf board within about five minutes of the
boat capsizing. He got Bob on to the board and brought him
The rescuer and another man tried to resuscitate Bob, but
when paramedics arrived he was pronounced dead.
Brian Clearwater was also helped ashore and taken to Dunedin
He and Bob had fished Papanui Inlet since they were aged
about 5 and had lived on Otago Peninsula all their lives.
They had life jackets at home, but rarely used them.
''I've probably used a life jacket twice,'' Mr Clearwater
said when asked by Mr McElrea.
He had not fished from the dinghy since the incident, and
said it was ''absolutely'' a good idea for boat users to wear
Senior Constable Lox Kellas, of Portobello, said it was still
common for people not to wear life jackets, but more were
heeding the safety message.
Snr Const Kellas, who is also president of Coastguard
Dunedin, said the Clearwater brothers were fishing in a
narrow channel, about 20m from shore, in calm conditions.
Dr Alex Dempster found the cause of death was drowning.
There were no criminal or medical issues involved, and the
dinghy was found to be in good condition.
Maritime New Zealand officer and National Pleasure Boat
Safety Forum national secretary Alistair Thomson, of
Auckland, outlined to the hearing the importance of life
He said about 98% of boat users carried life jackets, but
only 55%-60% of those wore them.
Each year, about 1 million people used the more than 900,000
pleasure boats in New Zealand, and about 650 incidents were
reported to Maritime NZ.
He outlined various efforts to make the wearing of life
jackets on small boats compulsory.
Mr McElrea reserved his decision.