A day of fun that turned into tragedy highlighted a series of safety lapses involving a skipper when he took friends around Auckland Harbor in 2020.

Zhenhua Yang was sentenced this week in Auckland District Court for an incident that resulted in the death of a passenger on a scuba diving trip in February 2020. Mr Yang was the captain of the vessel.

Mr. Yang was charged under the Shipping Act for operating a ship in a manner that caused unnecessary danger to others.

The owner of the Erica left Westhaven Marina with eight passengers on board, including several experienced divers.

During the trip, four people went diving near Billy Goat Point, off Motutapu Island, and surfaced about twenty minutes later.

Two of those in the water struggled to get back on the ship.

Mr. Yang then decided to reverse the ship towards them to avoid nearby rocks, but he did not confirm that he was safe before doing so. He backed up with no line of sight, unable to see the divers.

The propeller pinned one of the divers, who sustained fatal injuries.

Maritime NZ Investigations Manager Pete Dwen said a number of failures directly caused the incident.

“Mr Yang failed to keep an eye on the divers, let his vessel drift and then decided to back off, without confirming that the people in the water behind the vessel were clear.

“When the divers tried to get back into the ship, they were asked to swim over the side of the ship.

‘The location of the divers was not officially confirmed until the vessel turned back.

Death is a tragic example of what can happen when people make assumptions.

“Always check; water is not the place for guesswork. In this case, Mr. Yang ended up taking a life.

“Poor situational awareness and poor decision-making in this case led to catastrophic results,” said Pete Dwen.

Editor’s note

Mr. Yang was convicted and fined $5,850. He was also ordered to pay just over $14,000 for expenses already incurred for the victims’ funerals.

The court also ordered Mr. Yang to pay $150,000 in damages to three different parties related to the victim.

This condemnation took place during Safer Boating Week, please feel free to include some of our deaths in 2021 and information about recreational boats.

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