The NZ Herald reports:
A distressed man with burns on his face, arms and hands tried desperately to get help for his friend who died in a boat fire at Waiheke Island last night.
However, the blaze was so involved by the time rescuers arrived there was no chance to save him.
The fire broke out on a nine-metre launch moored near the Waiheke Boat Club on the island about 9.30pm, police said.
Tom Foster-Christie, 18, was on a nearby boat listening to his radio when he was startled by screams and banging on his window.
The owner of the burning boat - who survived the fire but was airlifted to hospital with serious burns - was trying to rouse help.
"I heard some yelling and then [he] came and knocked on my window. He was badly burned all up his face and his arms and hands were just all black.
"He wasn't knocking, he was banging and he was yelling that his friend was on the boat.
"He was saying [my friend] is on the boat. He was pretty well just repeating that. He looked disorientated and obviously distressed."
The tide was out and the boats were set in sand at the time.
Mr Foster-Christie, an apprentice boatbuilder, jumped out his window with a small fire extinguisher, but quickly realised it would be insufficient against the might of the blaze.
"It was too late. The doors were open, fire and smoke were billowing out. You couldn't see anything.
"I only had a 1kg extinguisher, you would have needed a 20kg extinguisher, at least."
By this stage the owner of the boat, thought to be a lifelong Waiheke Island resident in his mid-50s, was lying on the beach being treated by other people who had seen the fire and stopped. Mr Foster-Christie said he was conscious and screaming in pain.
The injured man is believed to have been living in the boat near the Waiheke Boat Club in Putiki Bay for only a few months.
A fire on the Boat Club yard on the Causeway has totally destroyed a vessel. I hope no-one was hurt.
I also hope it didn't belong to one of the many vagrants now living on boats in and around the Causeway attracted there from around the Auckland region and beyond by the generous Council facilities on offer on Waiheke. These include a public toilet, regularly cleaned by Council staff, safe drinking water, a playground for their children, Council collects their rubbish, and it’s all rent and rates free. There’s a burger cart and coffee cart on hand, also similarly funded by Waiheke ratepayers by having to pay no rent or rates, to provide their hot meals, drinks and social gathering place.
Many of the boat dwellers have severe mental health issues. Conditions on board are often a health and safety hazard. They risk damage to themselves and to others housed in the boats around them.
Council needs to take responsibility for the situation they have created on the Causeway.
Guest blogger Ken Edwards has been trying to draw attention to the problem. Others have been writing to the Council on and off for years to try and get some help for those living in squalid and unsanitary conditions on the Causeway. When Ken wrote to the current Waiheke Local Board he received the brush off from Board Members Paul Walden and John Meeuwsen and Councillor Mike Lee refused to ‘get involved’.
When Council has rules it must enforce them. When a situation like ‘liveaboards’ at the Causeway develops and proliferates, it needs attending to. If the regulations are inadequate, then they need tightening up. It’s just too tragic that Council’s failure to act has ended in death and serious injury. There have been rumours of a ‘P’ lab on one of the illegally moored boats and the police investigation will no doubt determine whether this incident is related. Council must act now, before another tragedy occurs.