Maritime NZ says rules were ignored prior to diver being struck

09 March 2023

An Auckland boatie has been sentenced following an accident where he struck a diver after failing to properly take account of a dive flag or slow down to five knots in the 200m vicinity of the dive flag.

Shaun Hollinger was sentenced in the Auckland District Court under the Maritime Transport for operating a vessel in a manner which caused unnecessary danger or risk to another person.

The incident occurred in January 2022, Mr Hollinger was skippering the Rain or Shine , a 5.4 metre recreational vessel.

On that day, the Rain or Shine was out near Little Barrier Island. At the time, another recreational vessel, the AWOL was also in the area; it had seven people on-board with some of the passengers diving.

The skipper of the AWOL erected a diving flag to warn other vessels there were people in the water, Maritime NZ’s Manager General Regulatory Operations, Jason Lunjevich says.

"If a diving flag is erected, other vessels within 200 metres of the flag need to slow down to five knots.

"This is to protect divers," he says.

After initially seeing the dive flag, the Rain or Shine did slow down from 18 knots, but, it was still travelling through the 200 metre five knot area at speeds of between 10 to 13 knots. More than double the permitted speed of five knots.

Witness reports describe how passengers on the AWOL tried to make the skipper of the Rain or Shine aware there were people in the water.

However, they say there was no change in speed, and shortly after they heard a bang and a diver surfaced beside the Rain or Shine yelling for help.

The diver suffered cuts to his head and a concussion as a result of the impact.

"This was completely avoidable and needlessly put a diver at serious risk of injury.

"We are still in our busy period for recreational craft users, and diving, and we do not want to see repeats of incidents like this.

"If you see a dive flag, you must slow down to five knots and keep an eye out for people in the water," Jason Lunjevich says.

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