Man fined for causing death of his friend through negligent use of jet ski

Gerrit Van Der Veen, a 19-year-old from the Netherlands was fined €2,500 after he was found guilty of riding a jet ski in a negligent manner, causing the death of his friend Mart De Ruiter.

The case goes back to the day of the Santa Maria feast in 2018, when the accused, the victim and another friend went on a ride on jet skis in St George’s Bay, St Julian’s.

In court it was stated that the accused and his friend were riding their jet skis when a collision occurred between the jet ski driven by the accused and that of the victim. With the impact the victim fell into the sea and lost his life. From the autopsy it was established that he died after sustaining severe head injuries.

It emerged that on the eve of the fatal accident the accused drank between 10 – 15 bottles of beer and went to sleep. Although it did not result that the accused and his friends were drinking on the day of the accident, there were still traces of alcohol in his bloodstream.

The jet ski ended up on top of the victim – he saw his friend face down in the sea with blood coming out of his mouth  

Appearing in front of the court expert, the accused testified that this was the first time he had ever driven a jet ski. He said that he was driving at moderate speed and the victim was around 30 metres behind him. He explained that at one time he turned around and came face to face with him.

In its decision, the Court presided over by Magistrate Rachel Montebello concluded that the accused ran into the victim. It seems both of them were driving slowly but the jet ski still climbed on top of the victim and killed him after he hit him in the face, causing him head injuries. The accused also described the macabre sight at the scene of the accident when he saw the victim face down with blood coming out of his mouth.

If he had been cautious and prudent the accident could have been avoided – but the victim was not following the rules either 

The Court said that if the accused had been cautious and prudent the accident could have been avoided. It said that it does not appear that the victim had increased his speed when the accused started to turn, and while he could have slowed down or turned more towards the left to avoid the collision this does not mean he was negligent. However, it also considered that the victim had not kept the distance required by the regulations.

With reference to the amount of alcohol in the accused’s bloodstream, the Court found shortcomings in the way the breathalyser was carried out and therefore it did not find him guilty of driving under the influence.

Victim’s family forgave him and wanted to suspend the funeral so that the accused could attend 

The Court took into consideration that the victim and the accused were close friends, grew up next door to each other and in fact were on holiday together. Two days after the accident, the victim’s relatives forgave the accused and tried to postpone the funeral so he could attend. The Magistrate said the accused is suffering from psychological effects as a result of the accident and will keep suffering from them for the rest of his life. It also said that the accused has a clean Police record and it is not the case that he should be sent to prison to reform himself.

It said this was an unfortunate accident, which left tragic consequences and for justice to be served one should not go to the extremity of the law and apply a prison sentence.

However, it said one could not ignore the fact that the accused had been negligent in his use of the jet ski and he was therefore fined €2,500.