New videos of deadly Enchanter fishing trip revealed in court as skipper goes on trial

Never-before-seen videos have been shown in the Whangārei District Court where the Northland skipper of the ill-fated Enchanter fishing charter has gone on trial, following the deaths of five paying clients. 

Geoffrey Allen, 72, from Cambridge, his son-in-law Mark 'Skid' Walker, publican Richard Bright aged 63, Mike Lovett aged 72, and Te Awamutu’s Mark Sanders,43, all died. 

Five others, including skipper Lance Goodhew and his deckhand Kobe O'Neill, survived the tragedy on March 20, 2022. 

Goodhew is charged with breaching his duties as a worker on the vessel, allegedly exposing individuals to a risk of death or serious injury. 

The charge carries a fine of up to $150,000. 

With 10 on board, the vessel set off on a five-day 'bucketlist trip' to the Three Kings Islands, big game fishing with Goodhew's company Enchanter Fishing Charters. 

A rogue wave survivor Shay Ward described as "easily 10 metres" hit the 16-metre Enchanter near Murimotu Island on the journey home around North Cape.  

In opening Goodhew's trial, Judge Rzepecky acknowledged the victims and their families, some of whom have travelled to Whangārei to attend the trial.  

Prosecutor Sam McMullan told the court "Mr Goodhew owed his passengers and indeed himself a duty of care. The prosecution case is that he breached that duty and exposed people to a risk of death or serious injury".

As described in the documentary Newshub Investigates: The Enchanter Tragedy the Enchanter was struck at 7:50pm on Sunday, March 20 separating the hull from the superstructure, and catapulting the eight clients, skipper and deckhand into the water. 

O'Neill gave evidence that he was cooking dinner at the time and looked at his watch to check a text message from his girlfriend.  

"It was the last thing I saw before the windows imploded and the boat rolled over... within half a second we were upside down."

The fatal event off North Cape sparked one of the largest search and rescue operations ever coordinated by New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre.  

It took almost five hours for all survivors to be picked up by the Northern Rescue helicopter crew who eventually had to stop searching due to a lack of fuel in the Far North. 

McMullan said Maritime NZ in bringing the charges, argues the Enchanter should never have been where it was "in near darkness, close to the shore meant he further encountered likelihood of a large wave".

When the group of charter clients including survivors Shay Ward, Ben Stinson and Jayde Cook left Mangonui on March 17, Goodhew talked about the weather on board with Te Awamutu father-of-three Mark Sanders. 

A front with 30-knot winds was predicted by the weekend. 

"It is not the prosecution case that he did not check the weather, it's clear that he did... but if one receives a forecast for severe weather that ought to raise concern," McMullan said. 

The group enjoyed three good days fishing, before the weather turned Saturday evening. In Goodhew's own words it became "sloppy, gnarly and scruffy". 

"The plan was they would stay under anchor in the morning as the weather was going to be too bad first thing… then journey to the Princess islands before heading back after the front had passed through." 

O'Neill told the court the worst of the weather had passed by 1:30pm on Sunday, March 20, when the group began the journey home in 20-knot winds and two-metre swells. 

Four videos were shown to the court of various conditions during Sunday, March 20. 

McMullan said: "A reasonable, careful mariner would have cause for concern that the sea would still be encountering the effects of that significant front that'd passed through."

Goodhew's lawyer Fletcher Pilditch said his client knew everything he could know about the weather at the time. 

"He was checking the conditions, checking the weather and had all the information available to mariners… not scientists at a later point in time. It's one thing to say sometimes very large waves happen in the ocean... but it's quite another thing to say you can predict where and when."

He said the prosecution will need to prove the known risks of being within three nautical miles off the coast where they allege waves can deflect offshore and bounce back to create dangerous sea states. 

Fourteen witnesses, including survivors Shay Ward, Ben Stinson, and Jayde Cook, as well as maritime experts will be called during the three-week trial.