COMMERCIAL NEWS — Skipper asleep at the wheel as fishing boat grounds

Commercial News - Skipper asleep at the wheel as fishing boat grounds

The South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) has successfully prosecuted the captain of a fishing vessel that ran aground with a crew of five onboard after falling asleep at the wheel.

The 24m Christina S (pictured above) ran aground on a reef off Hopkins Island (southwest of Port Lincoln) around 3am on March 5, 2011, while on a commercial fishing trip in prevailing conditions.

Onboard was a crew of five and at the helm was Steven Sarunic, 46, from Queensland, formally of Port Lincoln.

There were no serious injuries and the vessel partially sank before being refloated by Sarunic. Attempts were made to tow it to shore before a call for help was made and the vessel was towed back. Damage was estimated at $100,000.

The Port Lincoln Magistrates Court heard Sarunic admitted falling asleep at the wheel. Sarunic was charged with operating a vessel without due care under Section 69 of the Harbours and Navigation Act.

In addition to his conviction, Sarunic was also fined $400, plus court costs of $302, his Certificate of Competency to operate a vessel was cancelled and he was disqualified for four months from obtaining a further certificate.

DPTI Director of Transport Safety Regulation, Trent Rusby said the conviction highlighted the seriousness of the incident.

“It was fortunate in this instance nobody was seriously injured, the results of this incident could just have easily been catastrophic,” said Rusby.

“This skipper placed not only his own life at risk, but that of five others and those that came to their rescue.

“As a skipper, he, more than anyone, should have known better,” he said.For further information, visit