Boating Accidents

Is There an Explanation Behind a Mysterious New Zealand Boat Accident?


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Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. is comprised of attorneys that are nationally-recognized industry leaders in the field of maritime and admiralty law. Our team of lawyers has over a century of combined experience, has successfully handled over 3,000 cases, and has recovered over 300 million dollars in damages for our clients.

Cruise ship inspectionTwo men mysteriously died in a boating accident in a New Zealand artificial lake two years ago. But to this day, officials still can’t put the pieces of the puzzle together to uncover what really happened on the day of the tragedy. What’s even stranger is the fact that their boat was never recovered. Is this accident truly a mystery or is there a logical explanation for the missing vessel? The boating accident lawyers at our firm will explore the odd incident to see if we can come up with an answer.

Forty-five-year-old James Vincent Roberts and 21-year-old Jordon Keith Pooley were reported missing on August 31, 2011, three days after they decided to go fishing on Lake Arapuni, a man-made hydroelectricity lake in Waikato, New Zealand. They didn’t tell any of their loved ones at what time they expected to return from their trip and did not have any cell phones on them or other communication devices, as far as the coroner could find.

At first, investigators recovered Roberts’ vest, boots and wallet about a week after the men were reported missing, then his body was discovered on September 9 and Pooley’s on September 11.

There are several possible factors that could have contributed to the mysterious boating accident. First, authorities explained alcohol was detected in the victims’ blood streams. The men might have been drinking while enjoying a nice day on the lake fishing and got carried away. They may have fallen overboard and drowned, especially because officials revealed they were both wearing heavy clothing and neither was wearing a life jacket.

If the men were intoxicated and wearing heavy materials, they may have been injured or knocked unconscious. Without the safety of a life jacket, they may have drowned quickly from the mix of alcohol and trauma.

Our boating accident lawyers have stressed time and time again the importance of always wearing a life jacket while out at sea, on a lake or river. Even the most highly skilled and prudent boater can become injured due to sudden weather changes, mechanical errors with the vessel or because of another boater’s negligent or reckless actions. When an injury occurs, it is exponentially more difficult for a victim to swim or even stay afloat, especially when consciousness is lost. A life jacket can keep a victim’s head above water until emergency teams are able to reach them.

But here’s the odd part. Roberts had just bought a set of brand new life jackets, which witnesses say they saw inside his car before the men set out on their fishing trip.  Why would someone go through the trouble of purchasing a life jacket, taking it with them on a fishing trip, then just choosing not to wear it?

The men could have simply forgotten to grab the life jackets, but is there more to this story than meets the eye?

The victims’ loved ones told authorities that the vessel was in poor condition and had recently been fixed up with a hot glue gun.

While there was evidence the boat was in a bad state, the Roberts’ family insists the vessel was seaworthy, but it’s hard to believe a simple hot glue gun can weld together broken materials on a boat.

What’s even harder to believe is the fact that to this day, officials have yet to recover the boat or any debris. Several investigators scoured the lake using sonar devices, but still, no trace of the vessel was ever found.

After the accident, there were reports of a witness seeing the vessel being lifted onto a car trailer and hauled away, but this theory has never been supported with actual evidence. Police believe that the most likely explanation was that the vessel sank and got caught up in the thick weeds at the bottom of the lake, preventing the sonar technology from detecting it.

Officials have ruled the drowning a result of the men’s own negligent actions in drinking while out in open waters, which our boating accident attorneys can definitely agree is a huge mistake. Drinking while operating a vessel is extremely dangerous and one of the most common factors contributing to boat accidents around the country. Even individuals who have a high tolerance for alcohol can quickly become intoxicated while out in open waters due to the mix of heat, wind and wave movements.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is a serious crime, punishable with expensive fines, the revocation of a boating license (and driver’s license in many states), not to mention imprisonment. Though some people may think that being out on a small lake won’t matter much when it comes to drinking, alcohol consumption should be left for land-based activities because accidents can – and do – happen in the blink of an eye.

But whether the men were drinking or not, that still doesn’t account for the mystery surrounding the accident. Could their deaths have been a result of foul play? Did someone purposefully throw the men in the lake and remove the boat from the scene of the crime?

There are many possibilities that can offer an explanation into what really happened on that tragic August day on the Lake Arapuni. There’s plenty of technology available in this day and age that can search even the deepest waters, so it’s strange that investigators didn’t take a more extensive approach to the search for the missing vessel.

Yet, there is also the possibility that the theory proposed by police officers is correct. Maybe the men were drinking too much and forgot to put on their life jackets, hit something in the waters or experienced a boat malfunction and drowned as a result of the accident.

Given our years of experience in maritime law, our attorneys have seen many accidents involving motorboats, sailboats, tinnies, and even cruise ships in which victims went overboard and were never recovered – nor was enough evidence uncovered to come up with a solid explanation.

This is precisely why it is imperative for all boating accident victims and the loved ones of those killed to seek the expert assistance of an experienced lawyer in order to explore all possible options. An attorney has the expertise and the knowledge needed to uncover evidence and can help victims obtain justice for their pain and suffering, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the accident.

There are times when accidents are simply accidents, but there are times when they are the result of another individual’s wrongful actions. A boating accident lawyer can find the answers you and your loved ones are searching for and will work with authorities to get to the bottom of what really happened, exponentially increasing your chances of uncovering the truth behind the incident.

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