Jet boat driver in fatal crash was three times alcohol limit

A photo of the jet boat. Photo: Transport Accident Investigation Commission
A photo of the jet boat. Photo: Transport Accident Investigation Commission

A jet boat driver involved in a crash which killed a passenger on the Hollyford River last year had a blood alcohol level of three times the legal driving limit, an investigation has revealed.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) released a report this morning which confirmed the cause of death on the remote river in Fiordland on March 18, 2019.

Shane Paul Gibbons (50), a well-known farmer from the Te Anau Basin who was a passenger on the boat, was killed in the crash. Two other passengers were seriously injured.

He had been travelling at 35-50km/h with three others onboard in the darkening light when the boat hit a rock in a shallow channel.

The driver, who is not named, lost control and the boat skidded along gravel, coming to rest on a gravel bar in the middle of the river.

Chief investigator of accidents Aaron Holman said the accident was made more likely by a combination of insufficient planning, insufficient daylight; and too much speed and alcohol.

"The driver's blood alcohol concentration was about three times New Zealand's legal limit for driving a car.

"The Commission found it was virtually certain that the accident happened because alcohol consumption impaired the driver’s ability to make good decisions and to operate the jet boat safely."

Shane Gibbons and his partner Bridget Speight  being presented with the QEII National Trust and...
Shane Gibbons and his partner Bridget Speight being presented with the QEII National Trust and New Zealand Farm Environment Trust Award in 2016. Photo: Allied Press files
Mr Holman said the driver's speed meant he had less time to make "good driving decisions", and in the flat lighting conditions, rocks and other risk features were hard to see.
Those factors, paired with insufficient planning, contributed to the accident.

"In unfavourable environmental conditions, skippers need to plan their trip thoroughly, drive to the conditions, and recognise the limits of their ability.

"The Commission’s long-standing advice is that people in safety-critical roles should not be impaired by alcohol or drugs; it’s a TAIC Watchlist item and the subject of numerous previous recommendations."

In recommendations, TAIC has called for Maritime New Zealand to improve its fatal accident database about accidents and incidents involving alcohol impairment.

It would also renew its call for legislation to prohibit people in safety-critical roles being impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Mr Gibbons and his partner Bridget Speight won the 2016 Southland Ballance Farm Environment Award.

The couple farmed sheep, beef and dairy support at Whare Creek on the southern end of the Te Anau Basin.

The crash was the third jet boat accident in two months early last year.

Nine were injured in a February 23 crash in Queenstown and Christchurch jet boat competitor Cameron Moore died during the Otago rivers jet boat race, near Luggate, two days later.

With NZ Herald

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