School leader in boat rage incident – ‘He came in at full speed attacking us, ramming us’

The woman dubbed a “Karen” after a violent boating rage incident is a primary school deputy principal who says she’s now facing employment action because of the clash.

Catherine Browning was in tears when she spoke to the Herald today, saying the video captured at Tairua’s marina only shows half of what unfolded at the Coromandel seaside town.

“He came in at full speed attacking us, ramming us,” she claimed. “He scared the s*** out of me and I had to defend myself.”

The video captured the altercation last weekend in which a man in an inflatable outboard rammed an aluminum trailer boat at a Tairua boat ramp, leading to Browning grabbing an oar.

In the moments after the man rammed the boat, his inflatable began to deflate and Browning can be seen wading towards him and twice swinging the oar.

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The Herald has learned both people involved are Taurua locals, with Browning working as deputy principal at Tairua School, the local high-performing primary school. The man involved in the altercation lives aboard a 14.3m yacht in the marina worth about $150,000.

Browning said she could not believe how the incident had escalated, with the video going viral and police now investigating.

She had now been called to account by her employer, with the Board of Trustees asking for an explanation for behaviour that had now been seen around the world.

The video and an accompanying story had been carried by international news outlets, including the Daily Mail which dubbed her a “boat Karen” – a pejorative term for an angry or entitled woman.

Browning said she had been interviewed by police. “I’ve submitted my version of events and encouraged them to go further and look at the other people in the harbour – the boat he was targeting and not ours.”

She said statements had been taken by police from the other boat that had been the initial focus of the man’s anger and she believed they “corroborate my version of events”.

Browning would not go into detail on her claims, saying the drama had unfolded before the video started. “If we had the whole lot everyone would know what he did.”

She said the impact of the incident had been devastating. Sobbing, she said: “I haven’t been eating well or sleeping. It’s made my life a nightmare.”

The video begins with a verbal stoush at close quarters, with the man in his inflatable at the back of the Black Hawk, the boat on which Browning is standing.

A woman’s voice can be heard saying to him: “You rammed our boat and you spit at me. You piece of s***.”

He responds: “You piece of s***. You just caused $1000 worth of damage. You drive past my boat, you rock it if you’re not doing five knots.”

The man and a woman now identified as Browning exchange unpleasantries as he brings the outboard on his inflatable to life, roaring around in a circle until he’s charging at the boat on which Browning is standing.

He initially buzzes a neighbouring boat, causing an onlooker on board to step back. At that point, Browning picks up an oar.

The man then circles back and steers straight at Black Hawk. He appears to be trying to flick his wake but hits Black Hawk instead, falling from where he is seated to the floor of the dinghy.

“There are children,” a woman’s voice can be heard saying. “I don’t care,” the man responds. “I want some money.”

At that point, the man is gunning his outboard to head back into the marina even as his inflatable is losing air. A woman’s voice can be heard calling out “watch out Catherine” as she waded through shallow water towards him, oar in hand.

As the dinghy outboard roars, Browning swings the oar twice, connecting each time, before an onlooker takes it from her hands.

Children can be heard crying in the background of the video. “It’s all right, bubba,” the woman videoing the altercation says.

As the crying intensifies, the woman can be heard asking Browning: “Are you all right?” She then says: “I’ve got it all on camera. Got it all on camera, guys.”

A voice in the background can be heard saying: “He is the guy that attacked all of us.” Another says: “Good luck getting insurance for that, mate.”

Elected board chairman Evan Bonkovich would not comment, saying he had resigned his role. He referred questions to principal Brendan Finn, who has yet to respond to calls for comment.

A police spokeswoman said no charges had been laid.

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