Boy killed ignored warnings

AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD boy ignored warnings from family and friends to return to shore moments before he was struck and killed by a speedboat in Tinana Creek on November 30 last year.

Emily Hockey, a Maryborough woman who was sitting on the bank with friends about 11am that day, told the Maryborough Magistrates Court yesterday she had seen the Noosaville boy paddling out on a surfboard towards the middle of the creek.

“I heard (people) calling out to him to come back,” she said.

“When he reached the middle he was sitting up on the board. I can’t remember if he was straddling the board or if he was in the water beside the board ... I saw the second boat hit the surfboard.”

Ms Hockey was one of several witnesses to give evidence yesterday as part of Jeffrey David Ussher’s two-day committal hearing.

Ussher, 25, from Brisbane, has been charged with dangerous operation of a vessel causing death.

The court heard that on the day of the accident Mr Ussher was wakeboarding with family – including the family of the deceased boy – and friends at the creek.

Joshua Turnball, a friend of the defendant, told the court the speedboat he was travelling in and Mr Ussher’s boat had been doing “runs” together up and down the creek.

He said at 11am he noticed the boy paddling out into the middle of the creek when the child’s mother, who was also sitting in the boat, called out “hello” as they went past.

In “a split second”, Mr Ussher’s boat – which Mr Turnball said had been travelling about 60 metres behind – collided with the child, Mr Turnball said.

“He was lying down on the board paddling ... out trying to surf the wake of the boat,” he said.

“It looked like he wanted to get as close as he could.

“When he realised where he was I watched him freeze up. I saw him roll off the surfboard ... and that was where he was hit.

“I wouldn’t say it was the safest spot (for him) to be.”

Peter Upton, acting sergeant of Hervey Bay water police and investigating officer, said the boy’s body was found by police divers 51 metres off the bank the next day.

Sgt Upton told the court there was no suggestion Mr Ussher was hooning, speeding, drink-driving or fatigued on the day.

He said there was some glare off the water and that the child had dark brown hair – the same colour as the water.

The committal hearing continues today.

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