Life jacket saves life on Canterbury waterway

A fisherman believes wearing a life jacket saved his life after he was forced to abandon his burning boat.

The incident took place on Saturday 2 October in the Ashley River Mouth/ Waikuku. The fisherman, who we’re not naming for privacy reasons, heard a ‘boom’ and turned around to see his boat on fire. He abandoned the boat and swam to shore with the assistance of his life jacket.

“I’m glad I put my life jacket on that day.”

“What's more logical? Buying a life jacket for $120, or getting fined for not wearing one?”, the fisherman said.

The fisherman was also carrying a cell phone, a vital piece of boating communication, which he used to call for help.

“There was no one in sight, I would’ve been buggered without my phone,” he said. “Search and rescue knew exactly where I was from a GPS text link.”

Cover the safety basics before you head out

Environment Canterbury deputy harbourmaster Gary Manch said the incident was a stark reminder that even with the best preparation, accidents can still happen. Boaties need to follow the five key messages from the Boating Safety code:

  • Wear your life jacket.
  • Take two waterproof ways to call for help.
  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Be a responsible skipper.

Manch said that wearing a life jacket allowed the fisherman to make the right decisions and get to safety.

Before going out on the water, always check the right weather forecast on Metservice and follow the safety protocols.

“Nobody is faster than disaster,” Manch said.

The fisherman was hospitalised with burns and is now recovering at home.

Find out more about recreational boating in Canterbury on our Harbourmaster's Office page.

Boaties can also report and monitor hazards on Environment Canterbury’s hazards page.