13 Dec 2016

Ferry company to pay $80k to passengers left with broken bones

2:50 pm on 13 December 2016

An Auckland ferry company has been fined and ordered to pay almost $80,000 in reparations to three women who broke bones when its vessel was struck by a rogue wave.

The Discovery 5 ferry.

Explore Group Limited ferry Discovery 5 Photo: exploregroup.co.nz

Explore Group Limited has also been fined $35,000 over the incident, which happened on the Discovery 5 in wild weather in September last year.

The wave sent the three women into the air - one suffered three fractures to her thigh bone, another fractured her kneecap and the third fractured her hand.

The company had pleaded guilty under health and safety laws to failing to take practicable steps to ensure the safety of those on board.

Richard Smith, the vessel's master, also admitted a charge under the act, and has been fined $15,000.

Maritime New Zealand said the outcome served as a timely reminder about the importance of safety on board vessels.

It said the master and crew should have made sure passengers on the bow were safe, and the skipper should have understood the weather and sea conditions and taken appropriate steps to make sure passengers were not harmed.

There were 22 passengers and three crew on board the 24m catamaran when it headed to Waiheke Island in rough conditions on 1 September last year.

Maritime NZ said the skipper and a crewman were seated at the helm with limited visibility of passengers standing on the bow - some of whom had ventured outside as they were feeling seasick.

As Discovery 5 prepared to make a right-hand turn to enter the bay, Mr Smith announced over the PA system that passengers should be seated or hold on.

But Maritime NZ said those on the bow could only partly hear, and the turn was made within seconds of the announcement.

When the catamaran hit a large wave, one woman flew up in the air and landed on her left hip, resulting in three fractures to her thigh bone. Another victim landed heavily on her knees, fracturing her kneecap. A third landed on the deck and, when the vessel hit a second big wave, she then tumbled to the bottom of a stairwell, suffering fractures to her left hand.