Incident 20011026

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20011026?, 26 October 2001 12:00?, Fatal accident? / Entrapment-Other?
Victims?: NZ, 11, Female. NZ, 13, Female
Location?: Canterbury/Clarence/Upper Clarence?

Class?: II
Flow?: 20cu , "Low"
Boat Type?: Canoe-2 person/Perception
Trip Type?: Commercial


A parent aide and three students fail to avoid a partially exposed rock in the centre of the Upper Clarence River. The canoe hits the rock broadside. The paddlers rail downstream and the canoe fills with water from the downstream side. The canoe sinks and wraps across the rock. Two students are trapped between the rock and canoe, and drown. A hydraulic digger eventually pulls the canoe free. The canoe was not fitted with any added bouyancy.


The investigation into this accident raised some thought that the students had not had enough time to practice controlling their canoe. Before the accident the canoe was largely out of control, resulting in being swept broadside onto the rock (Recommendation 3.10).

There were three adults and seven students, but since only one adult had rescue experience, the instructor-to-student ratio was insufficient (Recommendation 3.4).

The students acted correctly when they hit the rock and railed downstream, but the canoe then filled with water from the downstream side, sunk and wrapped around the rock. The lack of bouyancy in the canoe may have contributed to the accident.

The canoe was firmly wrapped around the rock. Canoes present significant surface-area to oncoming water, so require a z-drag at minimum, or mechanical assistance to move.

MSA Report 012766 (PDF, 76k)
Schoolgirls drown, town in mourning, October 2001, The Press.
Rescuers: We felt useless, Robyn Bristow and Diane Keenan, 27 October 2001, The Press.
Girl terrified of river run, Matt Conway, 13 June 2002, The Press.
No prosecution over school trip drownings, 18 August 2002, NZ Herald
Schools need field trip guidance, says coroner, 19 July 2003, NZ Herald.
Safety recommendations follow canoing deaths, 12 June 2002, NZ Herald
Hanmer drownings raise fears over safety on school trips, 30 October 2001, NZ Herald
Maritime Safety defer drowning investigation, 28 October 2001, NZ Herald

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