No conviction over spectacular boat crash

A spectacular maritime collision will cost an Auckland finance company executive more than $11,000 but he has avoided a conviction.

John Robert Balgarnie, 65, was sailing his Riviera-style launch called Itsu near Waiheke Island in March when he smashed into a dinghy.

The victims Glenn and Janette Andrews, who had just caught a kingfish, said their small boat was "crushed like a tin can" and Maritime New Zealand said the incident could easily have been fatal.

Balgarnie was subsequently charged with operating a ship in a manner which caused unnecessary danger.

After admitting the charge, the former CFO of Fay Richwhite was discharged without conviction by Judge Grant Fraser at Auckland District Court today.

Balgarnie's lawyer Matthew Flynn provided information in support of the application centred around his client's health problems, which the judge described as "terminal".

Judge Fraser said he was in no doubt the stress of a conviction would exacerbate the medical issues and may also restrict his travel overseas for treatment.

The court heard how Balgarnie may travel to Australia or the United States in future.

The police were neutral to his bid to avoid conviction, on the condition the defendant paid reparation and wrote them a letter of apology.

Judge Fraser ordered Balgarnie pay the victims $11,549 and provide the letter within a week.

The Andrews' boat was so wrecked Auckland Maritime Police had used it as an educational display. The outboard motor was also damaged beyond repair.

"We lost our keys, our cellphones, we lost so much and we have had to replace it all bit by bit," Mrs Andrews said.

Auckland Police Maritime Unit senior constable Garry Larsen said the crash could have been much worse.

"It was a serious incident which could have resulted in death. Look out for other craft, the message is clear," Larsen said. "This could have happened to anyone."

The court heard how Balgarnie - a boatie of about 40 years - had never been involved in such an incident before and "it was simply a case of not seeing the vessel".

By Rob Kidd


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