Tragedy Follows Day Of Fun On Water

A day of fun that turned into tragedy has highlighted a range of safety failings involving a skipper when he took friends out on Auckland Harbour in 2020.

Zhenhua Yang was sentenced this week in the Auckland District Court for an incident resulting in the death of a passenger while on a scuba diving trip in February 2020. Mr Yang was the skipper of the vessel.

Mr Yang was charged under the Maritime Transport Act for operating a ship in a manner that caused unnecessary danger to others.

The owner of the Erica set out from Westhaven Marina with eight passengers on board, including a number of experienced divers.

While on the trip, four people went diving near Billy Goat Point, off Motutapu Island, and re-surfaced approximately twenty minutes later.

Two of those in the water struggled to get back onto the vessel.

Mr Yang then decided to reverse the vessel towards them to avoid nearby rocks, but he did not confirm it was safe before doing so. He reversed without line of sight, unable to see the divers.

The propeller stuck one of the divers, who suffered fatal injuries.

Maritime NZ’s Investigations Manager, Pete Dwen says there were a number of failings that directly caused the incident.

“Mr Yang did not keep an eye on the divers, allowed his vessel to drift and then decided to reverse, without confirming that people in the water behind the vessel were out of the way.

“When the divers were trying to get back into the vessel, they were asked to swim to the side of the vessel.

“The location of the divers was not formally confirmed prior to the vessel reversing.”

The death is a tragic example of what can happen when people make assumptions.

“Always check; the water is not the place for assumptions. In this instance Mr Yang ended up taking a life.

“Poor situational awareness and decision-making in this case led to catastrophic results,” Pete Dwen says.

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