Coroner: Driver to blame for jetboat crash

  • 28/07/2015
Coroner: Driver to blame for jetboat crash

An ill-fated decision to switch drivers during a challenging jetboat joyride cost a retired North Otago farmer his life, a coroner says.

Roualeyn "Ronnie" Munro was critically injured when the jetboat he was in hit a rock and flipped in the Waiatoto River, north of Wanaka.

The 64-year-old was pulled to safety but struggled for breath, and died of a heart attack the next morning following the crash in March last year.

Southland coroner David Crerar investigated his death, concluding Mr Munro died of "high energy impact injuries" received in the crash.

He said the jetboat outing, involving nine people, was well organised and well led, and the four boats used were all well maintained.

However, he questioned the skill of Michael Thomas, the man who took control of Mr Munro's son David Munro's boat just moments before the crash.

His son told the coroner that the boat struck a rock as it sped downstream shortly after he gave Mr Thomas the wheel.

"It was a good hit but not bone-rattling and we carried on. He still had his steering as far as I know," David Munro said.

Half a minute later they struck another rock when Mr Thomas failed to accelerate at the right time.

The boat overturned and everyone was thrown out. Mr Munro was found a short time later face down. He was revived but was struggling for breath. The remote location meant there was a six-hour delay before he arrived at Grey Base Hospital.

Mr Crerar said he agreed with expert opinion that driver error was behind the crash.

Mr Thomas was unsure of the boat's handling and performance and the decision to allow him to drive was the direct cause of the crash, the injuries and the death, the coroner said.

He also noted that a person in better health than Mr Munro, who was overweight and suffering heart disease, may have survived the accident.