Fined $4581 for “Miracle” Close Call

5 November 2011

A Central Coast man was fined a total of $4581 in the Woy Woy Court this week for multiple boating offences near Ettalong in August this year.

The 21-year-old man was charged by Maritime and convicted of three offences for overloading, failure to carry required safety equipment such as lifejackets, and operating an unlit vessel at night. He was fined a total of $4581.

The Court heard the man was operating a 3.3m open runabout with a maximum capacity of 3 persons. However, the vessel had five people on board, including a baby.

The vessel was out after dark in the Wagstaffe Channel, a commercial ferry passage area, and could not be seen as it was not fitted with or displaying any navigation lights.

At 6.35pm, the Palm Beach Ferries commercial ferry “Silver Spirit” collided with the runabout at speed, and all occupants of the smaller vessel were thrown into the water. All were rescued, and received medical attention at Ettalong Wharf.

Magistrate Stubbs said it was a miracle that no-one was killed.

A/General Manager Maritime Operations Trevor Williams said the incident highlighted the need to carry lifejackets at all times.

“It is also now law that, at night, lifejackets must also be worn at all times in craft under 4.8m in length,” Mr Williams said.

“The fact that a small child was on board exacerbated the safety concern and danger to life.

“Without proper lighting, the runabout could not be seen by the fast moving ferry, and it was then unable to manoeuvre at the last minute due to it being overloaded.”

Mr Williams said the safety lessons included:

  • Do not load vessels past the capacity allowed on the safety label;
  • Carry lifejackets at all times, and wear them at times of heightened risk; and
  • Do not operate a vessel at night without the correct navigation lights fitted.
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