The Otago-Southland coroner, David Crerar, has recommended
Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) add an ''education programme
warning'' about the dangers of smoking cannabis, following
the inquest into two Southland men who died after a large
wave hit the boat Extreme 1 in January.
• Skipper offers words
In his formal written findings into the deaths of Shaun David
Bethune (23), of Ryal Bush, and and Lindsay James Cullen
(59), of Brydon, Mr Crerar said both men died on January 3
near Ruapuke on Foveaux Strait.
While travelling on the boat to a sheltered anchorage to
fish, Extreme 1 was struck side-on by a large wave and
''Both Shaun Bethune and Lindsay Cullen ended up in the water
and whilst swimming to safety succumbed to the cold water
''The cause of each of their deaths was determined at autopsy
to be hypothermia due to cold water immersion.''
Mr Crerar said a toxicological analysis on both men showed
traces of cannabis. Shaun Bethune's blood THC
(tetrahydrocannabinol) level was consistent with him having
smoked the equivalent of a single cannabis cigarette within
eight hours of his death.
While it was impossible to judge how it had contributed to,
or resulted in, their deaths, it was ''unlikely that the
consumption of cannabis enhanced the survival chances''. MNZ
had education programmes stating ''water and alcohol don't
mix'', but one warning those in boats not to smoke cannabis
should also be added.
''The effects of cannabis can decrease survivability in cold
water,'' Mr Crerar said.
The survival of the other three on the boat - owner Barry
Bethune, farm manager, of Ryal Bush, and sisters Carol
Saxton, sales manager, of Wellington, and Denise Zonneveld,
nurse, of Edendale - were ''directly attributable'' to Mr
Bethune's insistence life jackets be worn.
Mr Crerar said after launching the 7.2m aluminium catamaran
from Bluff, in the evening of January 3, skipper Mr Bethune
''ensured that all persons on board donned life jackets''.
Navigating by observation, assisted with a chart plotter, he
altered his course to cater to the swell, tides and
wind-changed water conditions, for the most comfortable and
''When Extreme 1 reached a position about 2km to the
west of White Island, a large wave struck the rear and side
of [the boat], causing it to turn upside down. When Barry
Bethune had accounted for all his passengers in the water, he
attempted to dive underneath the upturned [boat] in an
attempt to recover the EPIRB, which was hanging by a lanyard
from the throttle.''
Despite several attempts he could not access the cabin of the
boat. The group at that stage was swimming and drifting
easterly, attempting to reach land.
The group drifted to about 300m of White Island, but the
current was too strong to attempt a landing and the plan was
Mr Crerar said as the group approached a bay in Ruapuke
Island, Ms Zonneveld saw a boat - Easy Rider - moored
in the bay.
''It was about this time that Shaun Bethune showed signs of
distress. The others saw that his eyes were closed and that
he was turning blue.''
Ms Zonneveld confirmed he had died and shortly after checked
on Mr Cullen.
''He was 'white and non-responsive'. Barry Bethune also
checked on Lindsay Cullen and they agreed that he had also
The remaining three then swam towards Easy Rider and
called for help. Mr Bethune tried to climb on board, but
could not. Their yelling raised the attention of people on
''Rewai Karetai, the owner of Easy Rider, rowed out to
the survivors in a small dinghy and assisted them to shore.''
Mr Karetai and seven others died in Foveaux Strait two months
later when Easy Rider capsized and sank.
On shore the three were given dry clothing and blankets by
Gloria Davis, Mr Karetai's wife, who also contacted police on
her cellphone to arrange a helicopter, as Mr Bethune's
physical condition of concern.
Mr Crerar said one ''significant lesson'' learnt from the
tragedy was a person who might end up in the water was far
more likely to survive if appropriate clothing was worn.
''As in tramping and mountaineering, wool is better and
layers of wool is best.''
While he did not necessarily consider it the skipper's
responsibility to ensure passengers were clothed
appropriately, education was ''necessary''. It was
''significant'' to record that of the three survivors - who
spent more than three hours in Foveaux Strait - Ms Zonneveld
and Ms Saxton ''survived best'' due to the clothing they
wore. Both women were dressed similarly, with Icebreaker
singlets, long-sleeved polo neck fleeced tops, woollen
shirts, reflective jackets and beanies.
''Barry Bethune was suffering badly from the effects of his
immersion ... he was not clothed as well as the other
Mr Crerar said the term ''rogue wave'' was a ''misnomer'' -
because such waves were known to exist, they were naturally
occurring phenomena which should be expected on Foveaux
Strait. He suggested extra vigilance be given by skippers,
with a crew member on lookout for approaching ''larger than
''The action expected to be taken would be for the bow of the
boat to be turned into the wave.''