Monday, January 24, 2005

How unimaginably stupid can some people be...

From NZ Herald Saturday 22 Jan


Louis Ng and his wife, Anna Ye, were soulmates. They lived together, worked together and even shared the same Chinese birthday.

Now Mr Ng is mourning the loss of his wife, one of a party who set out to rescue someone in trouble, and ended up losing her own life after being trapped under an upturned boat.

Her family say she died after the boatie they were trying to rescue, whose name they still don't know, refused to leave his own craft and climb on board theirs to safety.

Instead, the rescue unravelled in a horrific way.

Anna Ye, 41, was part of a family group who went out on Raglan Harbour for a day's fishing on Sunday. She could not swim and was wearing a lifejacket.

"My wife loved fishing," Mr Ng said.

By about 10.30am the Pakuranga couple were on the water with Mr Ng's cousin Gun Lai and three other passengers.

It was low tide and Mr Lai decided it was not safe to try to cross the bar with so many on board, Mr Ng said.

The family then noticed a 5m boat with a young couple attempting to cross the bar several times, twice stalling the motor.

Mr Lai and his friends started waving and calling out, trying to warn the couple it was dangerous, but they circled around and tried again.

"A boat came up past us like a sports car," Mr Ng said. "I was saying to Gun, 'Those stupid people are trying to kill themselves' ... The boat went up vertical, twice, right out of the water."

Mr Lai piloted the 6.5m fishing boat to the stricken vessel, which by then had let off a flare.

After calling the police, Mr Lai decided to try to help the couple.

They managed to get the woman on board.

"I grabbed her myself," Mr Ng said. "Gun was saying, 'Abandon the boat', because it was too risky ... The man refused to. He tried to save his boat."

Mr Lai said he was reluctant to tow the boat but eventually agreed when the boatie insisted. After a nylon towrope broke, the two boats were tied together with an anchor chain.

Mr Lai said yesterday that he felt uncomfortable towing the boat because it was too heavy and not worth risking his passengers' safety.

Just as he was calling the police to ask if it was all right to leave the man in his boat because he refused to come on board, someone called that a big wave was coming.

Mr Lai called for the rope to be cut, not knowing that it was the anchor chain, which meant the boats could not be separated.

The wave hit, and both boats capsized.

When Mr Ng surfaced, the first thing he did was try to count the people in the water.

All of a sudden I thought, 'Where's my wife?' I could not see her."

He tried twice to get back under the boat.

"It was dark and I was terrified, but not worried about my safety ... My wife was the priority."

As the boat drifted closer to shore it started to turn. As it did, Mrs Ng's unconscious body was revealed in the far corner.

Thw Westpac rescue helicopter flew her to Waikato Hospital, where she died on Wednesday night.

Back in his Ti Rakau Drive home, Mr Ng broke down as he said he did not even know the name of the man they had saved.

He looked around and said how his wife had loved the "dream house" they had bought just a week before Christmas after two years of searching.


Mr Lai, a former commercial fisherman, said he was angry about the way his cousin's wife lost her life.

"You can't replace a life but you can replace a boat," he said.

"If that guy had come on board we wouldn't have had a problem."

Mr Lai has not heard from the couple he tried to help.

The Maritime Safety Authority is investigating the incident.

To those who might no know, NZ is very much a maritime nation. There is no part of the country more than some 100km from the sea by road, and no part of the country more than 50km from navigable water (includes lakes and rivers).

But, there is just a little more to this tragedy that really makes my blood boil.

In martitime law - and that covers EVERY vessel at sea - a vessel is required to go to the aid of another in distress to the extent that the crew of the vessel are not put in peril. This is something that would be forefront in the mind of any man with extensive marine experience, which Mr Lai had as a commercial fisherman.

I respect his judgement that the bar on Raglan Harbour was too dangerous to cross. My holiday home is in good sight of a very similar bar at Hokianga. On an outgoing tide, the rip on that bar can easily exceed 3m breaking when the surf onto the beach a little further down the coast is less than 1.5m.

No, I believe that he did nothing wrong. In fact the only mistake on his boat was one that is so blindinly obvious that it could only occur if he were unaware of it - using chain to tow another, half sunken, boat. Sho'nuf!! have chain in the tow, but you ALWAYS have at least 4m of rope either end of the chain onto the towing and towed boats.

But that is not the point that makes me spit tacks. I only feel sorry for Mr Lai, and Mr Ng for the loss of his wife.

The thing that makes my blood boil is that the stupid arsehole who was the cause of the tragedy is probably never going to front to the debt that he owes. It is unlikely that he will appear at any formal inquiry, as he probably will get legal advice and will find out what an absolute twat he has been.

No, the worst thing of all is that there is a good chance he spent the evening in the bar in Raglan, or over the BBq at his bach, telling everyone how this stupid f***ing Chinaman wrecked his boat because he didn't know what he was doing.


Aleksu said...

I grew up in Acapulco and there is countless stories about locals losing their lives trying to rescue idiotic tourists.

When he was just 8 years old, my brother rescued a todler that jumped into a diving pool and went all the way to the bottom like a rock. The parents came, took the todler from my brother's hands and walked away. Which I understand, they were concerned about their son's well being.

But next day when they saw us again they just looked away, like if we did not exist. My brother sworn never to rescue anyone again.

The probligo said...

Blex, do not get me wrong.

The guy being "rescued" was probably no more a "tourist" than Mr Lai and Mr Ng.

Chances are he was a hot-blooded local who thought he was totally bullet-proof.

He falls into the same category for me as the maniac driver indulging in dangerous overtaking. If I came across him in the mangled wreck of his car he would be the last one I would check for first aid.