GPS linked to boating death

Coroner's office finds outdated GPS system contributed to Moreton Bay tragedy

Queensland’s deputy state coroner, Christine Clements, has found that an outdated GPS system was a contributing factor to a boating accident that resulted in the death of one person, and the injury of two others.

On Thursday, September 13, 2007, three friends set out on a fishing trip in Moreton Bay, Queensland. On the return voyage, and in darkness, the boat collided at around 40kmh with the seawall at the mouth of the Brisbane River, on the edge of an area being reclaimed by the Port of Brisbane. Timothy O’Neill sustained head injuries as a result of the collision, and died seven days later in hospital. The skipper, Andrew Coronis, also suffered serious injuries, while the other passenger, Andrew Boorer, received minor injuries.

In handing down her findings Clements said the accident was partly to blame due to an over-reliance on an outdated GPS system. The unit installed on the boat had not been updated since 2002, even though a newer 2006 version of the mapping software was available. According to the coroner’s report, one of the contributing factors to the accident was, "the boat was equipped with an out-of-date Navman map, which did not show the rock wall."

According to Maritime Safety Queensland, the findings have "highlighted the dangers of over reliance on nautical GPS systems, and the importance of additional consultation of appropriate navigational charts/resources when on the water."

Maritime Safety Queensland has since launched a GPS safety project to assist boat owners in determining whether their GPS systems are accurate, with verified GPS coordinate checking stations to be rolled out at various boat ramps and on-water locations around Queensland. At each location a sign will state the exact GPS coordinates of that location, which skippers can then match against their own system’s readouts.

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