Tourist ‘lost grip of rescue rope’


A postmortem will be held today for an Australian man who died on Saturday on the same stretch of Shotover River rapids where a rafting guide died due to a medical event just two months ago.

The tourist was on a commercial whitewater rafting trip on the Shotover River with Challenge Rafting.

The raft overturned on the “Toilet” section of rapids  about 3.45pm. The man was in the raft with five other Australians and a rafting guide. There were two other rafts on the trip, along with safety kayakers.

A statement from the company said the man was being brought back from the far side of the river using a rescue rope after the raft flipped, but he lost his grip.

“He was swept through the next rapid where he was met by the safety kayaker, who helped him navigate the subsequent rapid before assisting him to the shore.

“He became unresponsive, CPR was provided and a defibrillator utilised.  The guest received further treatment from paramedics who arrived by helicopter just after 5pm but was unable to be resuscitated.”

He was pronounced dead  at the scene.

A section of the Toilet rapids were recently renamed in honour of  Queenstown Rafting guide Moana-Roa “Chief” Haare (62).

Mr Haare died on March 23 while leading a commercial rafting trip for Queenstown Rafting, which also operates Challenge Rafting. He collapsed on the riverbank  after his raft  overturned.

Postmortem results indicated he died from a medical event  rather than a rafting accident. It was fairly common for commercial rafts to overturn in grade 4-5 whitewater rivers, the company statement said.

The cause of death for the Australian man is still to be determined. The man’s name has not yet been released by police.

Tim Barke, general manager of Totally Tourism – an umbrella company for tourism businesses which include Challenge Rafting – spoke to his staff yesterday.

“They’re obviously very upset but have been incredibly professional.

“Our biggest concern at the moment is with the family and the other members of the group – our sincere condolences go out to them.”

The five other Australians were flown back to Queenstown. One was treated at Lakes District Hospital, for a dislocated shoulder. They returned to Australia yesterday morning.

Barke added: “The feedback I’ve had so far was it wasn’t an unusual situation in that the boat flipped and the staff all acted extremely professionally, as they would normally with a situation like this.”

The “Moana-Roa Chief” rapids is the main section of whitewater, which winds through Skippers Canyon and Arthurs Point to  the Shotover delta, where the river  meets the Kawarau River.

Maritime NZ and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission have been advised of the incident.

A postmortem will be carried out in Invercargill today.

Police said they are  making inquiries on behalf of the coroner, with help from Maritime NZ.  Police are  also conducting their own investigation.

After the accident, Queenstown Rafting and Challenge Rafting announced they were  voluntarily suspending rafting operations until further notice.

University of Otago medical student Yoly Nim Yan Chi (19) died at the same rapids in 2001 on a joint Queenstown Rafting/Challenge Rafting trip after become trapped underwater against a rock. The NZ Maritime Safety Authority found the companies were not to blame for the death, with no procedural faults identified.