Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Emily Woods

Vic coroner calls for new boating offence

Sonya Kilkenny has been asked to consider a new offence for marine deaths or serious injuries. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

Victoria's coroner has recommended a serious offence be created for skippers who breach international regulations for preventing collisions at sea, after a man died in a boating crash.

Robert Wayne Edwards, 61, died in February 2020 after the boat he was driving collided head on with another vessel in Victoria's Gippsland Lakes. He was taking the boat out to conduct on-water tests to identify engine faults.

Mr Edwards launched the vessel, a Haines Signature ski boat, at 9am on February 11 and it was seen travelling at speed when it collided with another boat near Butlers Point.

Mathan Malchi was on a fishing trip with a friend when he saw Mr Edwards' boat travelling towards them. He told police the vessels collided within 10 to 15 seconds of him seeing the other boat.

He suffered a head knock and his friend dislocated their shoulder.

Police found Malchi did not take any evasive action before the crash and he did not change speed, despite travelling fast enough for the boat's bow to rise out of the water.

Malchi called emergency services and police towed Mr Edwards' boat to Sunset Cove boat ramp, where he was airlifted to hospital. He died later that evening.

State Coroner John Cain said Mr Edwards' vessel was on the wrong side of the channel, creating a risk of collision. However, he found Malchi should have been looking out for other boats.

"The evidence supports the view that Mr Malchi only saw Mr Edwards' boat 10 to 15 seconds prior to impact which would suggest that he was not keeping a proper look out," he wrote, in his findings.

In their investigations, Victoria Police found there was a gap in the law that resulted in summary charges being the only available option in cases like this.

Malchi as charged on summons in Bairnsdale Magistrates Court in December 2021.

He pleaded guilty to dangerous operation, contravening collision regulations and exceeding five knots within 50m of another vessel. He was fined $3000 and his marine licence cancelled for six months.

Victoria Police told the coroner an amendment to the Crimes Act in 2009 had created a legal gap and suggested a new indictable offence be created for conduct leading to death or serious injury, which is in breach of International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, known as COLREGs.

Judge Cain agreed and recommended Fishing and Boating Minister Sonya Kilkenny consider introducing the more serious offence.

"The new offence would apply where more than one vessel operator may have contributed to the death or serious injury and would not require the prosecution to prove that the accused solely or substantially caused the death or serious injury," he said.

AAP has contacted the minister for a response.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.