The skipper of a boat which overturned in the Foveaux Strait,
resulting in the death of his son and friend, said all he
needed was one working form of communication once in the
water and they would both still be alive.
• Pair succumbed to
Barry Bethune was skipper and owner of Extreme 1 which
overturned about 2km west of White Island on January 3 after
a large wave struck the rear of the 7.2m aluminium catamaran.
The boat was equipped with a VHF radio, Epirb (emergency
position indicating radio beacon) and flares.
On board were Mr Bethune, his son Shaun Bethune and friends
Lindsay Cullen, Carol Saxton and Denise Zonneveld, some of
whom also had personal cellphones.
After the boat overturned, Barry Bethune accounted for all
his passengers - all wearing life jackets - and attempted to
dive under the boat to recover the Epirb, hanging by a
lanyard from the throttle.
Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar said in his formal
written findings, released on Friday but embargoed until
today, that despite several attempts Barry Bethune was unable
to regain access to the cabin of the boat.
Shaun David Bethune (23) of Ryal Bush, and and Lindsay James
Cullen (59), of Brydon, both died on January 3 near Ruapuke
on Foveaux Strait.
Mr Crerar said a toxicological analysis on both men showed
traces of cannabis and while it was impossible to judge how
the effects of cannabis had contributed to, or resulted in,
their deaths, he said it was ''unlikely that the consumption
of cannabis enhanced the survival chances'', he said.
Mr Crerar said Barry Bethune ensured Extreme 1 carried
the appropriate equipment for the journey. The boat was fully
fuelled; he had given a return check-in time with a
responsible person onshore; he had made certain all his
passengers wore life jackets and he was experienced in the
He did not record his journey with Bluff Maritime Radio,
considering the service was ''probably only for the use of
those who subscribed to the service and he had not enrolled
He had ordered a portable waterproof VHF radio which was to
be delivered to him later,
but was not available on the evening of January 3.
''Barry Bethune had an Epirb which, if he had it with him
when he left the boat, could have been used to call for
''Unfortunately, due to the Epirb being uncomfortable to wear
or carry, this was trapped in Extreme 1 ...''
A boat master course he had completed educated boat users to
ensure ''at least two'' methods of communication were
''A cellphone in a waterproof bag ... or an Epirb attached or
zipped into a lifejacket, would have made the necessary
difference between death and survival,'' Mr Crerar said.
In a letter to Maritime New Zealand, Mr Bethune said he had
been boating for 30 years with some commercial sea time, and
''took being a skipper seriously''.
''Life jackets were always worn and up-to-date with safety
gear on board [with an Epirb, cellphone and VHF radio in
''I had a big, solid, well-serviced boat and was prepared for
any emergency that could possibly happen, or so I thought.
''In the blink of an eye, we were upside down, in a submerged
boat, swimming for our lives.
''Don't think 'It won't happen to me', because it can happen
to anyone. Prepare for the worst.
''Have your communication equipment on you at all times, get
a life jacket with pockets for an Epirb (or PLB) [personal
locator beacon] and waterproof VHF radio, or get pockets sewn
on your old one.''
Mr Bethune said all he needed was one form of working
communication once they were in the water.
''After four hours of swimming for our lives, I had to check
my son's and my mate's bodies for signs of life, make the
decision to leave them there, to carry on and maybe, if
lucky, save myself and two more friends' lives.
''Not a day goes by without thinking about my son and mate
and my wishing they were still here.''