Lake: blame for boat crash ‘equally shared’

  • New Zealand visitor: Mary Elizabeth McKee

    New Zealand visitor: Mary Elizabeth McKee

A man accused of causing a fatal boat crash in Hamilton Harbour told a court yesterday he shared the blame with others.

Andrew Lake said the collision was the fault of three vessels, including the one carrying Mary McKee, who died as a result of the late-night collision.

The 27-year-old, on trial at the Supreme Court, added that the crash would have happened even if he had been travelling within the speed limit.

Jurors earlier heard Mr Lake tell the court that he was travelling at between 15 and 20 knots at the time of the crash — above the ten knots maximum speed allowed in the harbour — when he saw something in front of his boat.

Mr Lake said he swerved to the left and felt the impact of “another unknown object”.

In a police interview played to the court earlier, Mr Lake said he avoided hitting a small, red semi-rigid inflatable boat but struck a similar grey boat.

He told officers neither boat displayed navigation lights.

Cindy Clarke, for the prosecution, suggested to Mr Lake yesterday that he was “speeding at least 25 knots”.

He said: “Absolutely not.”

Ms Clarke asked: “But you agree that you were going at such a speed that you mounted that rib and flew over it?”

Mr Lake said that was “correct”.

Ms Clarke added: “It has always been your position that because the smaller grey rib wasn’t carrying lights, the collision was mostly their fault.”

Mr Lake said that it was “combined”.

Ms Clarke asked if Mr Lake believed the ratio would be 50:50.

He replied: “Between all the vessels, the red, grey and myself, it’s equally shared.”

When the prosecutor asked — in reference to the grey boat — if he wanted the jury “to believe it was them more negligent than you”, Mr Lake said: “Equally so.”

In addition to the death of Ms McKee, 62, her husband Arthur suffered a fractured skull and yachtsman Charlie Watson suffered serious leg injuries in the crash, which happened at about 11pm on June 1 last year.

Mr Lake, from Southampton, denies a charge of manslaughter in connection with the crash.

The jury has also heard that he pleaded guilty to a charge of causing death by reckless driving in connection with the same incident at a Supreme Court hearing in April.

Ms Clarke suggested that if he had been travelling inside the speed limit the collision “may never have happened”.

She said: “I suggest that at worst, it would have been like bumper cars.”

Mr Lake replied: “No, my boat is over 1,000lbs, their rib is under 200 — it would be like a go-kart and a car having a collision, one will always end up on top of the other.”

The prosecutor asked if he maintained he did not think he “did anything dangerous that night”.

Mr Lake admitted: “In hindsight, it was reckless.”

But he said he did not agree it was “dangerous”.

Jurors also heard evidence from Alan Brooks, general manager of boat supply company PW Marine and a former Royal Navy captain who commanded ships. Mr Brooks told Jerome Lynch QC, Mr Lake’s defence counsel, that after the incident “quite suddenly a lot of people were coming in” who wanted to buy running lights for boats and the shop had sold out.

Mr Lynch asked Mr Brooks what the “cardinal rule” for piloting boats at night was.

Mr Brooks said: “See and be seen.”

He added: “It involves keeping a good look out. It involves having lights so that you can be seen yourself, so that you’re evident to another mariner.

“And when I say look out, it’s look out by every available means, primarily visually but also if you have electronic equipment such as radar you would use that as well.”

The trial continues.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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