Incident 19730722

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19730722?, 22 July 1973 11:30?, Fatal accident? / Entrapment-Other?
Victim?: NZ, 19, Male
Location?: Hawkes Bay/Mohaka/Willow Flat to Raupunga?

Class?: II-III
Flow?: Unknown, "Medium"
Boat Type?: Kayak-Touring/Trilon Tiger (fibreglass)
Trip Type?: Club

Summary?:

A group of nine club kayakers put onto the Mohaka at Willow Flat. Approximately 1.2km downstream on the outside of a right-hand corner were two large rocks. The rock in the centre of the current was submerged, and the rock on the left was visible 10-20cm above the water. The submerged rock was not visible until the canoeist was past it. Two paddlers successfully negotiated the rapid.

It appears that one paddler attempted to avoid the visible rock, and was swept sideways and became wedged, submerged, in a slot between the two rocks. The victim was leaning downstream, and removed his spraydeck but was trapped underwater. Attempts were made to swim a rope to the trapped kayak (strong-swimmer rescue), but were defeated by the current. At one point, one paddler managed to reach down and touch the victim, but were enable to extract him. A rope was eventually tied to the victim or the boat but snapped when force was applied.

An attempt was made to extract the body by helicopter the following day, but a 1000kg breaking-strain rope broke, indicating the forces involved. The body was successfully recovered two days after the accident by kayakers working with police, after a section of the bow was torn off to release the water pressure. The victim had been paddling for nine months and could roll.

Discussion?:

The victim may have had insufficient experience to avoid the obstacle (Recommendation 1.21).

The hazard was not visible from upstream, so the victim appears to have been unlucky; whitewater kayaking has inherent risks.

Sources?:
Depositions by Guy Cotter and Tony Free, 18 September 1973.
Mohaka Canoeing Accident, Tony Free (HBCC) [undated].
Report on #### ##### Incident at Willow Flat on the Mohaka River, Tony Geard (NZCA) [undated].
Bulletin 11, NZCA.

Reported by?: Jonathan Hunt
Created: 2004-03-09, changed: 2004-03-09.