Enchanter tragedy: Skipper defends charges against him, company

By Shannon Pitman of NZ Herald

The wreck of the Enchanter on the beach at Houhora Heads, Northland, following the second salvage attempt.

The wreck of the Enchanter on the beach at Houhora Heads, Northland, following the second salvage attempt.
Photo: Supplied / Transport Accident Investigation Commission

The skipper charged in connection with the Enchanter boat tragedy that claimed the lives of five men off North Cape plans to defend the allegations against him and his company.

Lance Goodhew is charged with breaching his duties as a worker on the vessel and in doing so allegedly exposed individuals to a risk of death or serious injury. The 58-year-old’s company, which trades as Enchanter Charters Ltd, is charged with exposing individuals to risk of harm by operating a ship without the prescribed qualified personnel.

But, there is a suggestion one of those charges relating to the March 2022 sinking could change.

Defence lawyer, Fletcher Pilditch KC, appeared via audio-visual link during a hearing in Whangārei District Court on Wednesday. He said discussions with Maritime New Zealand had been occurring in relation to the charge filed against Hewett personally and the particular details of those charges.

A lawyer for Maritime New Zealand said an amendment to the charge would be filed, and if Goodhew agrees to the amendment, a hearing date may not be necessary.

Members of the victims’ families dialled into the court hearing from around the country, a move acknowledged by Judge Philip Rzepecky.

“I understand I have whānau of family members present who have lost their lives, I want to acknowledge them today listening in to today’s court hearing,” Judge Rzepecky said.

The case has been called three times in the Kaitāia District Court in which Goodhew’s attendance was excused on two occasions. His attendance was excused again today at the case review hearing.

Pilditch said his client had a preference for the hearing, expected to last three weeks, to be held in Kaitāia however Judge Rzepecky said there were issues with the physical capacities of Kaitāia court.

“The capacity in the court is the issue, there’s only one court and it’s used for everything. So you could end up waiting a long time for a fixture for your trial, which can then be interrupted quite often by issues that arise that need to be dealt with such as bail hearings etc.

“There may be some benefit in transferring to Whangārei. It would be in the interest of justice if there was not an inordinate delay.”

Pilditch agreed and said they would support anything that could expedite the trial date, especially for the families of the victims.

“The earlier, the better,” he said.

The defence was also seeking further disclosure and was expected to file responses to Maritime New Zealand’s amendment to the charge in the next five weeks.

Judge Rzepecky indicated there was a possibility of trial time being available in the first quarter of 2024. A registrar will confirm the trial date at the next hearing on 29 September.

– This story was first published by NZ Herald.

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