Emily Jordan’s dad pushes for an inquest

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The father of an English tourist killed in Queenstown warns he’ll ask a United Kingdom coroner to investigate his daughter’s death if a Kiwi inquest isn’t held.

Chris Jordan, father of Emily Jordan – the 21-year-old killed during a Mad Dog River Boarding trip in 2008 – is “disappointed” he’s still waiting to hear whether there’ll be a local inquest into her death.

“I don’t believe that I sitting in the UK should be insisting on an inquest in New Zealand – it should happen as a matter of priority,” Jordan says.

“It’s just bizarre to me.”

Otago-Southland regional coroner David Crerar told Mountain Scene last week that he won’t decide whether he’ll conduct an inquest into the Jordan death till after a Government investigation into adventure tourism led by Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson.

Jordan: “I believe that David Crerar is getting the two issues mixed up – there’s a ministerial inquiry which is investigating extreme sports … I don’t understand why [he] has to wait till the end of the ministerial inquiry because that’s got nothing to do with Emily’s individual case.”

As coroner, Crerar has the power to make potentially law-changing recommendations through an inquest.
“I’m hoping that David Crerar will make recommendations with regard to improved safety of riverboarding,” Jordan says.

“Part of Emily’s legacy must be to create better knowledge of how to avoid these deaths in the future. If no fundamental change takes place, it will happen again.”

Jordan says he’s in regular contact with the UK coroner, who’ll hold an inquest once Crerar makes up his mind.
Emily died in April 2008 after being trapped by a rock in the Kawarau River. The Mad Dog company was fined $146,000 after pleading guilty to two Health and Safety in Employment Act charges.

Visiting Queenstown last week, Crerar told Mountain Scene he’s working closely with the Government inquiry and thinks it’ll be “of greater value to Chris Jordan and the overall safety of adventure tourism than I could possibly be in the context of an inquest hearing”.

There are “a number of ancillary matters relating to the death of Emily Jordan that could be the subject of closer scrutiny” – but he’s waiting to see if they’re addressed in Wilkinson’s report, expected in May.

Regardless of Crerar’s decision on an inquest, an investigation into Jordan’s death by an English coroner appears likely, according to information from Britain’s Ministry of Justice.

So long as the body – and not just the ashes – of a person dying overseas is returned to England and the death is reported to a coroner, then the matter will be looked into, Justice spokesperson Barrie Thurlow says from the UK.

“If the death is one where an inquest would have been held had the death oc­­curred in England or Wales, the coroner is required (since a 1983 Appeal Court decision) to hold an inquest into the death,” he says.

The English coroner could seek assistance from the British Embassy and NZ authorities in gathering reports and evidence, and could “invite” overseas witnesses to attend the inquest, Thurlow adds.