Victim?: GBR, 19, Female
Location?: West Coast/Crooked/Crooked Gorge/Bent and Twisted?
A party of three paddlers drove to the take-out below the Gorge and walked in for about three hours, putting on the river around 18:00. The group successfully negotiated several rapids and portaged one. After inspecting a particularly long rapid from the bank, two paddlers entered the rapid and made it to an eddy on river right. They noticed that the third paddler had entered the rapid but was in difficulty upstream of a boulder upriver from them, and was trying to brace or roll. As the two paddlers grabbed their throwbags, the third paddler floated past (without her kayak) and was lost from view behind a rock downstream.
The two paddlers scouted for the victim moving downstream along the bank until they could proceed no further. One returned to his kayak and ran the remainder of the rapid. The other crossed the river and began down the track for help but was stymied by darkness. The first kayaker pulled off the river and managed to reach the vehicles (at times, on his hands and knees) and raise the alarm (around 21:00).
Local SAR found the second kayaker that night, but did not find the third kayaker. The victim was located around 9:20 the next day, by members of the Tasman Whitewater Response Unit scouting by helicopter. The body was recovered without difficulty from just below the surface, in a slot/sieve immediately downstream of the eddy in which the two kayakers had been positioned.
The kayakers had adequate experience and equipment for the trip, and had paddled other New Zealand rivers of similar difficulty.
The river was at a good, runnable level and weather conditions were mild.
The decision to wet-exit near the start of a difficult rapid increased the risk significantly (Recommendation 1.16).
The victim appeared passive in the water, and a more vigorous whitewater swimming technique may have carried the victim away from the slot (Recommendation 1.16).
None of the victim's kayaking clothers were brightly coloured. This may have been a contributing factor to the failure of the victim's companions to locate her.
The onset of darkness around the time of the incident hampered rescue (Recommendation 1.9).
Protection of the rapid using a strategically-placed paddler and throwbag could have reduced the risk (Recommendation 2.11.5).
Lessons in kayak tragedy, July 2005, Heidi Brook (Maritime NZ), Wilderness, p62-63.
MSA Report 041119 (PDF, 786k)
Companions tried in vain to save kayaker, 1 April 2004, Jarrod Brooker, Press.
Top kayaker from Yorkshire killed in river tragedy, Brian Dooks, 1 April 2004.
Tributes to talented kayak star, BBC, 31 March 2004.
Drowned tourist was expert kayaker, 31 March 2004, Monique Devereux, NZ Herald.
Kayaker swept to her death on Crooked River, 31 March 2004, Monique Devereux, NZ Herald.
British Kayaker found dead in New Zealand, 30 March 2004, ITV.
Body of British kayaker found, NZPA, 30 March 2004.
Jonathan Hunt, Andy England
Created: 2004-03-30, changed: 2006-02-22.