Incident 19951021

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19951021?, 21 October 1995 12:00?, Fatal accident? / Entrapment-Tree?
Victim?: USA, Female
Location?: West Coast/Taramakau/Inchbonnie Bluff?

Class?: II
Flow?: Unknown
Boat Type?: Unknown/
Trip Type?: Commercial


Two clients were given 1.5 hours flatwater instruction on Lake Moana covering wet exits, support strokes, sweep strokes, equipment and the whitewater swimming position. A third client was collected prior to lunch.

The party of three clients, two guides and a friend (who had instruction experience, but was not instructing that day) put onto the Taramakau River in hired boats below the Stanley Gooseman Bridge. About 1.5 hours of additional moving-water instruction was provided.

The party set out down the river, with one guide walking along the river bank. The party would assess each section of river in approx. 100m chunks, pointing out any hazards and the correct line, then running in close succession behind the lead guide, with the friend paddling last. A support vehicle followed on SH73.

After a hot-drink break, the group agreed to continue to the Taipo River confluence, and the guide on the bank took over from the friend in the kayak. On the way to Rocky Point all members of the kayaking party took a few dumps and fell out. The party stopped on the true right before a known hazard (a log on the true right). The clients were advised of the hazard and told to paddle on the left.

The lead guide and two clients successfully passed the hazard on the left. The third client began paddling left, then relaxed. Despite called instructions, she did not paddle further left and collided head on with the log. The kayak turned sideways with the nose of the kayak between the log and the bank. The kayak was pinned with the log crossing in front of the cockpit, and gradually submerged.

The guides tried several attempts at swimming to the kayak and reaching an endloop. One guide slid down the log into the water and tried to pull the kayak off using an endloop. The other guide tied tape to a tree beside the log, climbed down the log and attempted to kick the kayak free. After around 8 minutes, the kayak was wrestled free. CPR was performed on the victim for 5-10 minutes, then abandoned.


The guides on this trip had no formal kayaking qualifications and had very limited kayaking experience.

It is highly unusual for guides to swim from their kayaks at all during a kayaking excursion.

Following the Coroner's inquest, the company involved agreed to better present risks to clients, to portage where possible past strainers and undercuts, to suggest the option of jetboat backup to clients, and to hire NZOIA-qualified guides.

Neither the MSA Report or Coroner's report mention the type of kayak involved, or the flow.

MSA Report 95803
Tourist's death may have been unpreventable, Press, 6 July 1996
Coroner's Report, 23 February 1996, A T Sullivan.

Reported by?: Jonathan Hunt, Glenn Murdoch
Created: 2004-01-19, changed: 2006-01-04.