Victim?: NZ, 25, Male
Location?: Manawatu/Waihi Stream/Waihi Falls?
Having previously postponed a descent of the falls due to low water, a pair of kayakers took advantage of heavy rain to provide deep water at the base of 24m Waihi Falls. With two companions standing by with ropes, one paddler successfully ran the falls.
At the lip of the falls, water pressure momentarily stuck the second kayaker's paddle against a rock. The kayaker was turned sideways as they dropped over the falls, falling backwards and without forward momentum. The paddler suffered two broken vertebrae and other leg and back injuries after hitting rocks behind the curtain of water. The kayaker managed to paddle to the river bank with the assistance of their companion, further assisted by throwbags from the shore. Only onshore was the extent of the injury revealed.
The victim was subsequently evacuated by rescue helicopter to Palmerston North Hospital where the paddler's spine was screwed and plated. Recovery was undertaken at Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch.
The kayakers were experienced, and took reasonable preparations and precautions for the descent.
There are inherent risks in kayaking, and the risks are amplified in the case of waterfalls where significant impact forces can be generated.
Palmerston Kayakers run Waihi Falls - 8 August 2004, October 2004, Anonymous, HVCC River Rag (p3)
Kayaker tells of 23m disaster plunge, 17 August 2004, Rebecca Palmer, Dominion Post (p4)
Created: 2004-11-24, changed: 2005-01-06.