Collision confusion

Pete Morgan was kite surfing when he says he was was hit by the Whitfords Volunteer Sea Rescue boat. Picture: Emma Reeves d413290
Pete Morgan was kite surfing when he says he was was hit by the Whitfords Volunteer Sea Rescue boat. Picture: Emma Reeves d413290

Pete Morgan, who came fourth in the recent Lighthouse to Leighton kite surfing race from Rottnest Island to Fremantle, said he was training with a friend for the Lancelin Ocean Classic when the 12m rescue boat hit him from behind about 3.23pm.

But Whitfords Volunteer Sea Rescue Group commander Roger Howell said the kite surfer ran into the side of the boat as the crew was returning from a rescue in Two Rocks.

‘From our view, the incident came out of the blue. The kite surfer collided with the side of the vessel,’ he said.

Where the kite surfers usually hang out around Pinnaroo Point we are very, very careful. We have our blue light flashing, we have our horn ready because they’re coming thick and fast from every direction but 400m off the coast of Quinns ” you don’t expect us to find a surfer there.

‘The skipper is looking forward, he’s not looking out the back. It’s a 40ft vessel, it’s a big target.

‘If he didn’t see us, then we didn’t see him.’

Mr Morgan, of Quinns Rocks, said the volunteers at the rescue group did a ‘fantastic job’ but he believed something went wrong on Monday afternoon.

‘All I want to know is what was going on at the helm so we can learn from it and prevent the accident happening again,’ he said.

‘If it’s proven that it’s my fault then I put my hands up, but all the GPS tracks and information (from his watch) certainly doesn’t make it look that way.’

Mr Morgan said he and his friend were in the ski zone using 19m red, yellow and black kites and the swell, which was reported to be about 2m, was reduced because of the reef and the wind was only 11 knots.

‘It’s hard to understand how we didn’t get seen and that’s what we want to know, because if we weren’t conspicuous enough then we need to use something else that makes us more conspicuous,’ he said.

He said he had been travelling upwind at 30km/h for 1.5km on a constant course and had not changed direction.

He said when he was hit he thought it was a shark breaching over him.

‘It wasn’t until I spun around and saw aluminium everywhere and being dragged back towards the propellers that I realised it was a boat,’ he said.

He said because the boat was still moving, the kite powered up and pulled him from under the boat.

Then the boat stopped and the rescue crew was able to get him on board.

‘They did a fantastic job. They looked after me, they called for an ambulance, they got me back into Mindarie as quick as they could and they couldn’t have done anything more for me,’ he said.

‘I was extremely lucky to say the least.’

Mr Morgan said his friend had been surfing in front of him.

‘I had him in my field of view. We were the only two people out there so I had no real reason to be looking behind me and with the speeds we do, we tend to concentrate on what’s in front because that’s what’s coming our way,’ he said.

‘He thought that I had seen the boat so therefore I was going to avoid it but I had no idea because of the angle. It was really right up behind me in my 6 o’clock position so it just came straight over the top of me.

‘I had a helmet on and you’ve got the wind rush and the noise of the board on the water ” you get a lot of slapping noises ” so there’s a lot of noise around you without a boat coming up behind you.

‘If I’d heard it and looked around I could have taken some sort of evasive action.’

Mr Morgan was lucky to escape the incident with concussion, bruises and a suspected fracture in his foot.

Mr Howell said the rescue group was ‘very pleased the man wasn’t seriously injured’.

‘Our skipper and crew were terribly shaken up by the incident but they acted professionally and did their best to preserve life,’ he said.

Investigation into accident
A collision between a kite surfer and a rescue boat at Quinns Beach is being investigated.

Department of Transport marine safety general manager Raymond Buchholz said all skippers were required to maintain a good lookout and ensure they complied with the Prevention of Collisions at Sea regulations.

Whitfords Volunteer Sea Rescue Group commander Roger Howell said the rescue group was also conducting an internal investigation.

He said it was the responsibility of all skippers to keep an adequate lookout at all times.

‘That applies not only to the driver of a power boat but also a windsurfer. They’re also obliged to keep a proper look-out and take all efforts to avoid a collision,’ he said.

‘We have an over 40ft boat that weighs 14 tonne ” it’s not like it’s invisible.

‘While we quite often may not see a surfer in the sun, they can certainly see a 40ft boat.

‘We are constantly looking forward and to the left and right of our direction. We don’t look behind us. If a surfer is behind the boat, they’re obligation is to overtake or proceed with caution, they don’t have right of way if they’re behind us.”