Norwegian boater killed days after launching vessel

| 24/10/2017 | 4 Comments
Cayman News Service

Erik Henriksen

(CNS): Erik Henriksen (58), who was killed in the North Sound, Grand Cayman, in November 2015 when he was thrown from a powerful speedboat, had launched the new vessel only days before, the Coroners Court heard Monday, as the inquest into the Norwegian millionaire’s death opened. Witnesses and statements painted a picture for the jury of what happened before Henriksen and a close friend and colleague, Warren Weiss, who captained the brand new boat over the weekend, were thrown into the sea as they approached the Safehaven channel at sunset and Henriksen drowned.

In his statements, Weiss said he had collected the new vessel on Saturday, 7 November 2015, from Scotts Marine and then drove the 37ft Nor-Tech power boat, with its three 350HP engines, up to the DeckHouses at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, where Henriksen owned a home. The two men, along with friends, enjoyed the boat for the rest of the weekend.

On Monday, 9 November, which was a public holiday, they collected a female friend from the George Town Yacht Club before they cruised down to Morgan’s restaurant at the Cayman Islands Yacht Club for lunch.

The jury heard that Henriksen had several drinks and the pathologist confirmed in a toxicology report that he was almost three times over the legal limit for driving a car. After lunch they dropped their friend back at the George Town Yacht Club, where they had more drinks before heading back towards the Safehaven channel.

Weiss, who said he had drunk very little alcohol as he was captaining the boat, said it was around sunset when they were cruising at about 45mph parallel to the shore on calm waters with good visibility. He said that, as they were enjoying the evening, they intentionally sailed a little past the canal entrance to Safehaven so they could enjoy it for longer.

He said that sometime after 6:00pm he turned the boat around to head to the canal with the intention of going back to Henriksen’s house at the Ritz. Although Weiss was at the helm, as they got nearer to the canal he told Henriksen he was going to adjust the fenders in preparation for docking. Henriksen then stepped toward the helm.

Weiss explained in his statement that he was swapping over the fenders when he felt a jolt and immediately went flying through the air before he landed in the water. He said he had his back to Henriksen so had no idea what had happened and how he ended up in the sea.

As he came up for air, he said, he looked across and could see his friend some distance away splashing around in the water, going up and down and waving his arms around. It appears neither man was wearing a life-jacket, and as neither of them had been wearing the safety lanyard for the boat’s ignition, which would have cut the engine when they were thrown out, the vessel was spinning away.  

Weiss said that at that point he gave no mind to the boat and swam towards Henriksen and tried to calm him down, as he was splashing and panicking. But as he tried to help, his friend was pulling him under as well. Weiss told police he was not sure if Henriksen could swim well, and it took him more than half an hour to calm him down enough so that they could begin to make some progress towards the shore. 

Weiss said he was really worried that they would both drown, as he continued to try to help Henriksen make it, though he continued to panic and struggle. Weiss said that Henriksen became exhausted and calmed a little so he could get him on his back and tow him, but at some point he felt his friend’s body become limp.

He said it took almost three hours to swim to shore with Henriksen, where he dragged his friend onto the rocks. He believed he was already dead by then, but although he was exhausted, Weiss ran for help and alerted a security guard in the Safehaven area and called 911.

Henriksen was pronounced dead at the hospital in the very early moments of Tuesday morning, 10 November, and the cause of death was confirmed as drowning at a later autopsy. The pathologist also discovered two cracked ribs and said this injury would have hampered Henriksen’s ability to swim. It was not clear if the injury was caused when he was thrown into the water but witnesses indicated that he could have sustained the injury some days before, as he was showing off a large bruise on his torso during the lunch at Morgan’s.

The court heard that after Weiss and Henriksen were thrown from the boat, it continued to spin out all the way across the North Sound and into the mangroves at Barkers, where it was discovered later that night by the police.

The jury heard from a representative from Scotts Marine, which imported the boat, and the investigating officer that the boat’s GPS recorded all of the boat’s movements since it was launched and as it was spinning before it eventually ran aground in the mangroves.

The police were unable to access the boat on their vessels because it was so far into the mangroves. However, Scotts Marine staff were eventually able to get the speedboat from the mangroves and enable the investigation to take place. There was no indication of any mechanical problems on the boat and the engine was still running when the police found it. The GPS track reflected the journey of the boat as recounted by the witnesses.  

It remained unclear what happened before the men were thrown overboard but witnesses who had been on the boat with Henriksen that weekend, including Weiss, said that while he was at the helm Henriksen had on a number of occasions grabbed the wheel as he seemed to enjoy turning the boat and watch it carve through the water.

But Weiss told investigators that at the moment he was flung overboard he had his back to Henriksen and did not see what had caused the boat to make the sudden turn that had thrown both men overboard.

The inquest continues.

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Category: Local News

Comments (4)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Albeit rather late, a sincere extension of condolences to the heroic Mr. Weiss.

    Many would have acted differently under the circumstances, but he fought for 3 hours to bring his buddy home.

    My hat goes off to you sir.

    – Who

    • Anon says:

      Yes, Mr Weiss, this account is a fine example of heroism. My heart aches with you for having suffered through this tragedy. You almost lost your life in trying to save Mr. Hendrickson. You can live free knowing you did all you could.

      You do humanity proud.

      My condolences to all.

  2. Anon says:

    So sad for Md Erickson and his family. I pray for God’s comforting grace for them.

  3. BELONGER says:

    This is very tragic accident which could have easily been avoided. If life vests had been worn, no one would have got killed or seriously injured.

    Even if life vests were not worn, wearing a safety lanyard to the kill switch would have shut down the engines and the occupants could have climbed back onboard and got home safely.

    As tragic and terrible the incident, a runaway boat in the North Sound could have resulted in greater danger. It could have collided with another boat or ended up inside someone’s home on the water, resulting in more fatalities or serious injuries.

    The lessons to be learnt. Don’t drink and drive, (boats included) wear safety gear to include life vests, use a safety lanyard to a kill switch and attach it to your body, don’t get behind the wheel traveling as fast speeds without having sufficient knowledge and experience to control such a conveyance.


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