Alcohol incidents

Narrative

The slogan “Alcohol and water don’t mix” has been a catch phrase used by Roads and Maritime Services for some years now to educate boaters as to the dangers of alcohol when combined with boating. The following four examples from the last year will hopefully ram this message home. Three of these four examples resulted in death.

Incident 1

Three adult males had enjoyed a day’s fishing on the Parramatta River in their 3.5 metre tinnie, but had also enjoyed several ales along the way. On their way back to the boat ramp in Sydney’s inner west, on-board skylarking resulted in the tinnie capsizing. An elderly male, who was possibly the master (not determined), drowned whilst attempting to swim to the shore, only a short distance away.

Incident 2

Three adult males in their early thirties spent the day and early evening fishing and drinking aboard their 4 metre tinnie in Broken Bay. Conditions were reasonably calm. Sometime in the late evening approximately 11.30pm, the tinnie capsized whilst en-route to Brooklyn. The capsize occurred when one male, for no apparent reason, stood up in the tinnie. Two males were able to swim to a nearby island, a third male was missing, his body recovered several days later. The evidence from the two survivors indicated that significant amounts of alcohol had been imbibed that day. The deceased was a young and otherwise healthy 30-year-old person.

Incident 3

Two middle aged males sailed their 8 metre yacht from Brisbane Waters to an anchorage in Broken Bay, arriving early afternoon. They both commenced drinking heavily. In the evening, one of the males retired to the fore cabin to rest. The other male rowed a tender to a nearby beach to pick up another person to convey the new guest to the boat. When the tender began its return journey, the occupants observed that the yacht was ablaze. They and other boaties attempted to get to the person in the fore cabin, but failed due to the heat and flames. The yacht sunk, and the deceased person in the fore cabin was recovered the next day. Later evidence revealed that gas lanterns were left alight in the cabin and cockpit when the lone occupant was asleep in his bunk. Whilst the exact circumstances of this incident had not been established by the coroner, it is very likely that alcohol consumption resulted either in the fire starting (displaced gas lamp) or the victim not being able to awake in time to save himself, or both.

Incident 4

A male in his mid 30’s took his family to Watsons Bay for the day aboard his vessel a 38 ft Riviera cruiser. It seems he enjoyed a great afternoon, for on his return journey in the late afternoon, he navigated on the wrong side of the starboard (green) lateral navigation mark at Kirribilli Point, and grounded his vessel well and truly on the rocky reef at the foot of Kirribilli House; the Prime Minister’s place of residence in Sydney. Police attended and later found that the master tested positive for high range alcohol — a blood alcohol content reading (BAC) of over 0.15. The vessel sustained significant damage, and required a complex salvage operation the following day to remove it. Fortunately, in this instance, no persons were injured, including the two young children aboard. In this instance, the master’s alcohol consumption resulted in a criminal record, a fine and repair expenses. However, he may well have been responsible for injuring his family but for good luck.

Lessons learned

The lessons from these examples are very simple. Alcohol consumption when mixed with boating activities can kill. This does not apply just to skippers, you may be a passenger, you may be at anchor and feeling secure, the water doesn’t care. Our waters can be a great source of enjoyment, but it is an unforgiving environment for those with alcohol impaired senses and functions.

So it is worth repeating……ALCOHOL AND WATER DON’T MIX!

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