Incident 20000105

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20000105?, 5 January 2000 13:15?, Fatal accident? / Entrapment-Sieve?
Victim?: GER, 22, Male
Location?: Otago/Nevis?

Class?: V-VI (P)
Flow?: 20cu Water discoloured., "Medium"
Boat Type?: Kayak-Playboat/Necky 'Bliss 8'
Trip Type?: Private


After approximately 2.25hrs on the river, a party of five kayakers reached a class III-IV rapid. One kayaker got out to inspect the rapid, got back in his kayak, successfully ran the rapid and gave the 'OK' signal. The next paddler followed the same line but was slightly left of the previous paddler's line at the final drop. He appeared to be intending to boof the ledge, but had lost all his momentum landing on the ledge.

The paddler smiled, indicating he had 'blown his line', and tried to pull himself over the ledge with his left arm. He could not do so as the stern of his kayak was slowly turning with the current towards some large boulders on the left. His kayak slowly rose up, entering a sieve, stern-first. The paddler endeavoured to paddle out. In a matter of seconds the kayak and paddler disappeared beneath the surface.

His companions were on the scene quickly (within 30 seconds) and found the kayak cockpit empty. His paddle emerged and they searched both downstream and reaching into the sieve. With a line attached to the kayak, two or three of the rescuers easily pulled the kayak out. A throwbag was thrown into the siphon and emerged on the other side. After 30 minutes of unsucessful searching, the group walked out to a 4WD track that led to a rural road. A passing car took them to a nearby farmhouse from where they alerted authorities. The body was recovered after three days of intensive effort by the Queenstown Swiftwater Rescue Unit and police.


The victim was experienced and well-equipped, with a strong team.

A creek boat with higher tail volume may have been less vulnerable to the water forces at the entrance to the sieve (Recommendation 1.24).

A small misjudgement of line had fatal consequences.

The group relied on the guidebook description of the river. Nobody on the trip had been on the Nevis before (Recommendation 1.1).

The image below shows the location of the sieve (note the yellow arrow).

MSA Report 990412 (PDF, 76k)
Coroner's Report, 21 June 2000, Kenneth Terry.
Kayaker's body recovered, 10 January 2000, Dave Smith, ODT. (Copy & paste link)
Search still on for kayaker, 7 January 2000, Anonymous, ODT (+image). (Copy & paste link)
Search continues for missing kayaker, 7 January 2000, Anonymous, ODT. (Copy & paste link)
Kayaker believed drowned on Nevis, 6 January 2000, Fiona Hill, ODT. (Copy & paste link)

Reported by?: Jonathan Hunt
Created: 2003-12-05, changed: 2004-05-09.