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STATEMENT BY CHIEF OF NAVY, REAR ADMIRAL TONY PARR ON CORONER’S FINDINGS ON THE DEATH OF BYRON SOLOMON

3 August 2011

Byron Solomon’s death was a tragedy for the Solomon family, the Carkeek family and for the Navy community.  Byron was a popular and valued member of the Navy and almost four years later his loss continues to be felt deeply by all those who knew and worked with him. 

Byron’s death happened during the routine launching of a seaboat from HMNZS CANTERBURY.   Launching and recovering seaboats is an operation that Navy ships carry out almost every day.  On this day a combination of unlikely occurrences, related to equipment and events, resulted in a fatal accident.  

The Navy is committed to providing a safe working environment for its personnel.  We have worked closely with the Coroner on this inquiry to ensure he had access to all the information necessary to make an informed decision.  The Coroner's findings are largely consistent with those of the Navy’s own Court of Inquiry and we support his recommendations.

As noted by the Coroner, the Navy has taken significant steps to eliminate any future possibility of the same tragedy happening again.  The seaboats used by the Navy in the Protector ships have been replaced and the system for launching and recovering the boats changed.

Since the accident the Navy has safely launched and recovered seaboats from its ships at sea hundreds of times.   Every time one of our Inshore and Offshore Patrol Vessels undertakes a Fisheries or Customs patrol they launch and recover their boats many times. 

The steps we have taken reflect the Navy’s commitment to providing a safe working environment.  We work very hard to reduce risk to a minimum by providing our people with training and skills, working with proven standard operating procedures, and having equipment and systems which are designed, built and certified as fit for purpose.   Nevertheless, because we operate complex machinery in an unforgiving environment we can never guarantee zero risk.  

On behalf of the Navy I offer my sincerest condolences to the Solomon family and Carkeek family at the loss they have suffered, and reiterate my ongoing commitment to building a safe, effective and operationally excellent Navy.

ENDS

For further information please contact:  LT Sarah Campbell 021 244 0638,  09 4455002.


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