1st January 1996
A day that would change the way I see safety in small craft.
Sitting on a boat at the Mercury Islands – an isolated spot east of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand, I watched with horror as a young man stepped into his inflatable dinghy, pull the start cord of his outboard motor, slip and fall overboard.
The outboard then swung full throttle hard over and the dinghy began to circle him. It came around three times. Each time he tried to push it away. The third time I heard the engine wind down and realised it had struck his body – this time with great impact. Then I heard the scream that seemed to echo around the bay. We leapt into a dinghy and headed towards his boat that he had managed to get to. Pulling him from the water I could see the extent of his injuries. Firstly to his head and elbows but then to his buttocks. The propeller has sliced into him making three deep two inch wide incisions. I wrapped him as best I could with towels in an attempt to stop the blood which was by now everywhere and kept my patient still. We contacted Westpac Rescue by radio and they were on their way. It seemed to take hours for the helicopter to arrive but when it did I wished my patient the best of luck and he was gone