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$324,000 reparations over fatal kayak trip

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5/12/2016

A kayak hire operator sentenced over the death of two students on Lake Tekapo neglected his safety obligations with tragic circumstances, Maritime New Zealand says.

Ricky John Hartnett, trading as Aquanorts, was ordered to do 200 hours community service and pay $324,500 in reparations, when he appeared in Timaru District Court on Monday.

Daniel Hollnsteiner, 21, and James Murphy, 20, who were part of a group of exchange students from Monash University in Melbourne, died of hypothermia on the lake in September 2015.

Hartnett will have to pay $115,000 to each of their families. Three students who were hospitalised will receive $15,500 each, and the six others involved will receive $8000 each.

Judge David Saunders said he would also have imposed a fine of $70,000 but didn't because of the defendant's financial circumstances.

Hartnett had pleaded guilty to two charges laid by Maritime NZ - failing to take all practicable steps at work to ensure no other person was harmed, and operating a ship without the appropriate maritime document.

Maritime NZ maritime compliance general manager Harry Hawthorn said the sentence sent a message to all operators that they had to take their responsibilities seriously.

"This operator did not have adequate systems in place and did not react quickly enough," he said.

"He ended up raising the alarm far too late, with tragic consequences."

Mr Hawthorn said Hartnett did not notify Maritime NZ he was renting kayaks to the public at Lake Tekapo.

The fatal incident happened after Hartnett rented eight kayaks to 11 international students, most of whom were inexperienced kayakers.

Conditions on the lake deteriorated suddenly and five members of the group were tipped out of their kayaks by waves whipped up by high winds.

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