Pontoon to be moved after drowning of teen

Police at the Bannockburn inlet. Photo: Jono Edwards
Police at the Bannockburn inlet. Photo: Jono Edwards
A pontoon near the site of a drowning in the Bannockburn Inlet more than two years ago is to be relocated.

Lake Dunstan marine patrol, education and enforcement officer Shayne Hitchcock had recommended the move and the pontoon's proposed relocation was confirmed yesterday by Central Otago District Council parks and recreation manager Gordon Bailey. It was likely the pontoon would be moved before this summer, Mr Bailey said.

Mr Hitchcock included the recommendation in his end-of-season report to the Central Otago District Council's community services committee meeting on Wednesday.

He referred to the Coroner's report on the drowning and said "I would recommend relocating the pontoon from this site to one with less weed, depending on the success of the lake weed control programme in this area".

Nineteen-year-old Ben Gardner drowned while swimming to the Bannockburn Inlet pontoon on December 10, 2016.

Coroner Marcus Elliott said Mr Gardner was a strong swimmer who was carrying a child with him as he went out to the pontoon in the river.

"He experienced difficulties when he reached a point where the water became too deep to stand. His ability to remain afloat was made more difficult by the weight of the child he was carrying and by the presence of weeds. Although he stayed afloat for long enough for the child to be rescued, Mr Gardner was unable to remain afloat and drowned," he said in his findings, which were released in November last year.

Mr Elliott said Mr Gardner's death highlighted the importance of being vigilant about the dangers of swimming, especially in unfamiliar waters.

He also recommended Crown Property and the council erect signs warning of the water depth, the presence of weeds, the risks associated with swimming in the area and the need to supervise children.

There had been some signage in the area, but it not appear there had been any signs about the risks of swimming, he said.

Warning signs were erected at the start of last summer.


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