NZ Firm On Trial Over River Adventure Death
Tuesday August 18, 2009
A British tourist who drowned riverboarding in New Zealand took the trip with a company ill-prepared for a rescue, a court has heard.
Emily Jordan, 21, died after she was trapped between rocks as she rode a body board down rapids in the Kawarau River Gorge near Queenstown.
Following her death last year, Black Sheep Adventures and company director Brad McLeod were charged under New Zealand's health and safety legislation.
At a court in Queenstown, the victim's father Chris listened as the prosecution alleged not all practicable steps had been taken to ensure his daughter's safety.
The tragedy unfolded on April 29 as the group entered the water about 500 metres upstream of a power station known as Roaring Meg, the court heard.
They negotiated one set of rapids but ran into trouble at a second when Miss Jordan, from Worcestershire, became trapped "directly against the rock" with her head under water, prosecutor Brent Stanaway said.
A guide reached her within 30 to 50 seconds but could not save her as the heavy flow of water thundered down, the court heard.
"As he approached the board he could see Miss Jordan's right hand reaching out, however, her arm movement stopped shortly after he began his attempts to free her," Mr Stanaway said.
Three guides then tried to release Miss Jordan but could not do so until another riverboarding company provided a rescue rope - about 20 minutes after she became trapped, he said.
Attempts to revive her failed and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr Stanaway alleged the company failed to carry rescue ropes and throwbags, although these were widely accepted as essential rescue devices in whitewater.
The lawyer also argued Miss Jordan's group should not have been taken down a stretch of water which flowed at only 84 cubic metres a second.
The river level had dropped to expose rocks that would normally have been covered with water, the court heard.
And although Miss Jordan and her group were given a safety briefing they were not warned about the "significant and inherent hazard of entrapment", Mr Stanaway said.
"No mention was made... that if they became entrapped their chance of survival was by no means guaranteed," he told the court.