Family of Tevita Kava, who fell from boat ramp, search for answers as court ruling leaves them in limbo

Correction: An earlier headline for this article referred to a "faulty" ramp. The court did not make any finding that the ramp was faulty.

A Maritime New Zealand investigation, and a court case, but still no answers for Tevita Kava's family.

The family of the man who drowned after falling from a party boat in Auckland says a court ruling has left them in limbo. 

A judge acquitted the boat company and criticised Maritime New Zealand because there wasn't enough evidence to lay blame for the tragedy.

His family member, Ngaire, told Newshub: "He's not at rest yet until someone has got the blame and that we can prevent it for other families - because this is one of the hardest moments for us."

The father-of-one drowned after falling from 'the red boats' charter vessel during a birthday.

Kava was leaning on the boat's boarding ramp as it sailed into the harbour. The ramp suddenly gave way.

In court the boat's crew, and Kava, were cleared of any blame.

Ngaire said: "We had people saying that he was intoxicated or that it's his fault for going on a boat because he couldn't swim - but for the judge to say that [he wasn't guilty] was a massive relief."

But when it came to ruling whether the ramp was faulty, the judge found there were shortcomings.

It was revealed the ramp was removed from the vessel and handed to a Maritime New Zealand investigator in 2017.

That investigator then left his role in 2018, and the case was passed on to a colleague.  

But what happened to the ramp after that is unknown.

Ngaire said: "It's two years, and nothing has been done. So yeah, I do believe that they have let us down."

Judge Noel Sainsbury said the court heard no evidence that the ramp was tested or subjected to scientific analysis.

He called it "inexplicable" and "unacceptable".

As a result, the court couldn't determine how Kava fell and who was to blame.

Maritime New Zealand has admitted it didn't test the ramp.

Maritime NZ said to Newshub: "The ramp itself… testing it in our view wouldn't have added anything in our view to the position we took, we did look at whether we tested the mechanisms by which the ramp was fixed to the boat but it was damaged in the accident."

Maritime New Zealand still has possession of the ramp, but says it won't be investigating further. The coroner will now look into Tevita Kava's death, and his family is vowing to get the ramp tested.


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