November 2021: Safety around propellers

This safety update highlights the importance of skippers of recreational boats ensuring the person at the helm has a safety lanyard attached to his or her body.


On 17 January 2021, a serious boating accident occurred off Mangawhai when a crewman on board a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) was struck on the leg by the boat’s propeller after the skipper lost control when the vessel struck sudden waves while travelling at high speed.

The crewman fell overboard and was injured by the propeller when the out-of-control vessel turned a tight 360-degree circle.

The crewman was medically evacuated by helicopter. He was fortunate to survive. It is expected to take him at least two years to recover from his injuries.

At the time of the accident, the skipper, who was at the helm, was not wearing the safety lanyard that attaches to the boat’s motor. The lanyard is designed to cut power to the engine if the person at the helm moves or is jolted away from the helm.

If the skipper had been wearing the lanyard, it is unlikely the accident would have happened.

Safety Lanyard 1
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Police
The boat involved in the accident
Safety Lanyard 2
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Police
The red safety lanyard is pictured at the boat’s helm
Safety Lanyard 3
Photo courtesy of New Zealand Police
The boat pictured after the accident. The victim’s orange sweatshirt is wrapped around the propeller.


Safety reminder

Skippers of recreational boats are reminded to:

  • make sure everyone on board wears a lifejacket (personal flotation device)
  • keep a lookout for changing wave conditions and travel at an appropriate speed for the conditions
  • make sure  the person at the helm is seated in the correct position to control the boat
  • make sure safety lanyards, if available, are correctly attached.


More information

Marine and Safety Tasmania

Safe Handling - Prop Strike


Contact us for more help

If you have any questions about this safety update, please contact our Wellington office.


New Zealand (toll free):
0508 225 522

Calling from outside New Zealand:
+64 4 473 0111

Tell us what you need help with and remember to include your contact details (email address and phone numbers).