Witness evidence about weather in Enchanter trial discredited by defence

A commercial fisherman sent to rescue ten men in the water after the Enchanter fishing charter capsized off Northland has admitted in court he was fishing in weather he'd earlier said was too dangerous to be out in.  

Florence Nightingale skipper Matt Gentry has given evidence on day three of the trial for Lance Goodhew, who was at the helm of the Enchanter when it was hit by a monstrous wave at 7:50pm on March 20, 2022.  

Five Waikato men died and five, including Goodhew and deckhand Kobe O'Neill, survived hours in the water before being picked up by rescuers.  

In the Whangārei District Court, Goodhew's lawyer Fletcher Pilditch KC challenged evidence given by Gentry about the "appalling" weather the Enchanter was out in.  

Gentry described 30-35 knot winds on Sunday morning up around the Three Kings as "f**king shit".  

Maritime New Zealand's case is Enchanter's skipper should've known a front that smashed Northland overnight Saturday and early Sunday would have continued to impact sea conditions long after it'd passed.  

Goodhew is alleged to have breached a duty of care to his passengers leaving the Three Kings Sunday, passing too close to shore on the journey home round North Cape, when a rogue wave toppled the vessel.  

Text messages between the Florence Nightingale skipper and his boss Nat Davey hint at conditions earlier on Sunday, March 20 where both the Enchanter and his own vessel were up at the Three Kings Islands.  

Gentry told his boss of a plan to delay Florence Nightingale's journey to check cray pots at Hell's Gate because there were "white and big green ones".  

"We are getting our asses handed to for 30kg (of catch). To which Davey replied, "do what you think is right, but it is going to glass off this avo [sic]".  

But Pilditch KC, in cross-examining Gentry, challenged his evidence the weather was so bad his vessel had to stop fishing at midday. He presented Automatic Identification System (AIS) data to the court showing Florence Nightingale's movements to the North East Island, and the Princes group.  

"You told us the weather was so bad you decided to anchor up for the day and do no more fishing?" Piditch KC asked Gentry.  

"What you said was wrong wasn't it... it wasn't a full day's fishing. You fished from 7 in morning until 3 in the afternoon?"  

"Yes," the Florence Nightingale skipper replied.  

"Do you accept that's what you did... and what you told us yesterday and today is wrong?" To which Gentry said, "Yes".  

Gentry admitted to the court this put him in breach of his Maritime Transport Operator plan when probed by Pilditch KC. Gentry has previously been praised for his work on the Florence Nightingale.  

Along with other commercial vessels, the Coastguard and Navy, it answered the call from the Rescue Coordination Centre to go to Enchanter's rescue when the survivors set off the emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) about 8:20pm following the deadly capsize near Murimotu Island.  

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 in the tragedy.  

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.  

Enchanter survivor Ben Stinson told the court Wednesday conditions had eased on Sunday as they headed home from the Princes Islands about 2pm.  

He said he had 3-4 beers on the way back and everyone was relaxing. The swell was "about 2 metres... a bit of chop. We had the lures out, we were fishing".

A recording of Goodhew's evidence to Maritime NZ is expected to be played in court on Wednesday.  

The judge-alone trial before Judge Rzepecky is set down for three weeks.