Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Boaties want lights on deadly wall

It has been two years since a tragic boating accident at Fisherman Island claimed the life of a Brisbane man. And just two weeks after a coronial inquest into his death, eight people were lucky to escape injury in a freakishly similar accident.

It was  just after 6pm on the first Saturday of August. The winter sun had set early that afternoon and a group of friends were returning to Brisbane from a day trip to Tangalooma.

Robbie Duffell and Bradley Potts had been fishing in their tinnie with two friends beside the rock wall at Fisherman Island for 15 minutes when a 12-metre luxury boat sped past them and rammed into the rocks.

The men and their friends were the only witnesses to the accident and watched in horror as the boat smashed into the wall.

“We just looked over and saw this big boat coming and we just really couldn’t believe our eyes… It didn’t slow down and it just missed us and hit the rock wall,” Mr Duffell said.

Mr Potts said the boat hit the wall at full speed.

“All we could do was just sit there and watch it. It was was only 20 metres away. We’re lucky it didn’t hit us,” he said.

Two families were onboard the boat that crashed, including six adults and two children aged two and three. Two sustained minor injuries, but the other passengers walked away unscathed.

The four men in the tinnie rushed to the boat, not knowing what they would find.

“The boat was on top of the wall. The motor was still running, making a huge noise. We jumped inside the boat and there was blood on the floor,” said Mr Potts.

The four witnesses spoke with the shaken skipper after pulling him from the deck.

“I’m pretty sure he said he had his GPS set and was following that. It just didn’t take him the right way. He had it set to go back into the mouth of the river and it just didn’t take him there. It put him onto the rocks instead. He said he just didn’t see it coming,” Mr Potts said.

In September 2007, three men were returning to Brisbane in darkness from a fishing trip in Moreton Bay just after 8pm.

Thiry-nine year old Timothy O’Neill was one of the passengers in the boat. He sustained fatal injuries when the skipper failed to see the wall until it was too late.

The coronial inquest found that the hire boat they were travelling in was fitted with an outdated global positioning system (GPS) that failed to register the sea wall on the map.

After the fatal accident, Brisbane’s fishing community campaigned for the wall to have lights installed.

Local fishing guru and radio presenter Dave Downie says the wall is almost impossible to see in the dark because it has only one navigational beacon.

“When you’re coming into the mouth of the Brisbane River you can’t see the wall. There are no lights. The only lights you can see are the cranes in the port area,” Mr Downie said.

Mr Potts and his friends only knew the wall was there because they’d seen it during the day.

“You just can’t see it at night. There are no lights. It’s just black… nothing at all,” Mr Potts said.

He says when the Water Police arrived at the scene they were particularly concerned as to whether there had been any fatalities.

“They kept asking, ‘Is everyone ok?’ They were really worried that someone had died again like the other crash,” Mr Potts said.

This most recent accident was only 200 metres away from the fatal crash two years ago.

But Brisbane Water Police say the wall doesn’t need lights and boat drivers need to be more aware of their surroundings.

“It is timely to remind people that whilst they’re driving a boat, especially at night, there is a much higher level of responsibility,” Sergeant Sean Harrison said.

“Most of Queensland’s coast line isn’t lit. So the logistics of having to light every single point along the coast is totally impractical,” he said.

Investigations surrounding the circumstances of the most recent accident are continuing.

Police say alcohol was not involved and couldn’t confirm the speed the boat was travelling at.