Incident 20020201

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20020201?, 1 February 2002 12:00?, Fatal accident? / Entrapment-Tree?
Victim?: NZ, 21, Male
Location?: West Coast/Buller/Earthquake/Rodeo?

Class?: III-
Flow?: ~95cu , "Low"
Boat Type?: Kayak-Playboat/Wavesport 'X'
Trip Type?: Education


The first of three groups of outdoor leadership students run Rodeo rapid on the Earthquake section. A student paddles over a rock with water welling over it (left of the centre of the rapid, approx. 25m from the left bank) and is immediately pinned on a Y-shaped log behind the rock. One limb of the log is across the spray-deck and abdomen of the paddler, forcing him against the rear of the cockpit.

Other members of the group, and the other two groups, arrive soon after and make repeated attempts to free the paddler from the strainer. These were unsuccessful and the victim slid under the water while still pinned against the tree. He was finally freed from the tree and washed downstream.


It is thought the victim was unaware of the existence of the strainer hazard in Rodeo, which was not visible from upstream. The instructors and some of the students were aware of the particular strainer. Normally it is the instructor's responsibility to manage risk for the group (Recommendation 3.10) but students need to accept more of this responsibility as they advance.

The victim was capable of navigating to avoid the rock (Recommendation 1.21).

The hazard was not visible at higher flows. In this case, a lower flow enhanced the objective danger.

The incident site appears to have been too far from the banks of the river (and feasible anchor points) for effective z-drag rescue.

It is dangerous to paddle over an obstacle 'blind' (Recommendation 1.19).

With reference to the MSA report, it is unlikely that satellite telephone would have contributed to a successful rescue.

A bad day on the Buller River, 23 July 2005, Monique Devereux, NZ Herald
'Silly mistake' led to death of kayaker, inquest told, 19 October 2004,
Radio NZ Late Edition, 18 October 2004
Witness describes watching kayaker drown, 18 October 2004, Monique Devereux, NZ Herald
Instructors closed ranks after kayak death, court told, 21 July 2004, NZ Herald
No charges over kayak death, 15 July 2004, NZ Herald
MSA Report 022829 (PDF, 188k)
Kayak instructor at fault in drowning, says authority, 13 September 2002, NZ Herald
Kayaker dies after rapids accident, The Press
Kayaker trapped for 40 minutes, 4 February 2002, NZ Herald

Reported by?: Jonathan Hunt, Glenn Murdoch
Created: 2004-01-19, changed: 2005-07-24.