24 Nov 2017

Skipper suffered same fate as 2015 passenger

6:21 pm on 24 November 2017

The skipper who drowned overnight, not wearing a lifejacket, was previously convicted of manslaughter after a passenger - also wearing no lifejacket - died on his boat two years before.

Waitara River mouth

Waitara River mouth Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

A passing boatie found Teiron Jones' upturned boat early this morning about 7km offshore.

His lifeless body was in the water, being held by his wife who was perched on the hull. Mr Jones was not wearing a lifejacket.

However, in an earlier landmark case Mr Jones was convicted of manslaughter and discharged after his boat capsized crossing the Waitara bar, causing the death of Hamilton man Erka Xu.

Mr Xu had not been wearing a lifejacket either. Mr Jones was ordered to pay $5000 in reparations.

That case was the first time manslaughter charges were used over a breach of Maritime Rules. No conditions were placed on Mr Jones' use of boats.

Brian Kilmister, the fisherman who found Mr Jones and his wife this morning, said the lifejacket and wetsuit Mr Jones' wife had been wearing probably saved her life.

He came across the 4m fibreglass boat about 5.45am.

"She had one on, and what saved her [was not just the] lifejacket but the wetsuit.

"Once they get wet, they warm up your body, they trap the heat inside."

He and a friend comforted her but had to wait for help to retrieve Mr Jones' body.

It was not clear why the boat would have flipped in what were very calm conditions, he said.

"It was flat as, beautiful, safe as. Well, there you go - safe seas - that's what happens ... one mistake."

Waitara boatie Rod Moratti saw Mr Jones attempting to launch last night.

"He was all over the place. And he didn't back it out far enough into the water, then he backed the car right into the water and the boat was floating off by itself.

"He had to walk out right up to his waist to get the boat, then he came back in and got in his car and he must've buggered off."

Another fisherman, Lex Barnett, 82, said Mr Jones was his mate and would be missed.

"Well, he's a friend of mine. He's a good joker actually. He does a lot for the community actually. He's an entertainer."

Mr Barnett was also struggling to understand how Mr Jones could have got in trouble in such benign conditions.

"You wouldn't expect anyone to get drowned on a sea like this. No lifejackets I suppose. I don't know but it shouldn't have happened: It's too flat.

"God, you could paddle ashore with this sea. He must've flipped it, had an accident, hit a rock or something."

Mr Jones' wife, age 31, was in a stable condition and recovering in Taranaki Base Hospital.