High-speed boat operator fined $93,000 after passenger breaks back

A high-speed boat operator has been ordered to pay fines totalling more than $93,000 after a woman's back was broken when the boat hit a wave in 2014.

Seafort Holdings Ltd and its sole director, Richard John Prentice, has been ordered to pay Raewyn Russell $32,360 in reparation and been fined $60,500 in Auckland District Court last Thursday.

Judge CJ Field found Prentice - also the master of the boat Mack Attack - had not advised the passengers of the known, heightened risk of back injuries, even more so for older people, sitting at the front of high speed passenger vessels.

Mrs Russell, 60, was sitting at the front of the boat on October 18, 2014, as it sped from Paihia towards the Hole in the Rock attraction, when it hit a wave and landed heavily. Mrs Russell was thrown forward and on landing back in her seat heard a crack in her back and doubled over in pain.

"This injury is a permanent disability which has resulted in Mrs Russell giving up her career," Judge Field said.

A high-speed boat operator has been ordered to pay fines totalling more than $93,000 after a 60-year-old passenger had her back broken when a vessel hit a large wave. Source: Maritime NZ/ Facebook

Mrs Russell had worked as a manager and travelling salesperson.

Maritime NZ northern regional manager Neil Rowarth says the convictions send an important message to masters and owners of passenger vessels.

"You have responsibility for your passengers' safety," he said.

"You must take practical steps to keep [them] safe."

Prentice pleaded not guilty to charges of causing unnecessary danger or risk brought by Maritime NZ in September, but Judge Field found him guilty last month.

Prentice and Seafort Holdings were also ordered to pay more than $90,000 in compensation and fines in 2012 after a Mack Attack passenger was left with spinal injuries when she was thrown in the air during a trip off Paihia.