Emily Jordan’s Queenstown death revisited

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An inquest into the death of an English tourist begins in Britain on Monday – three years after her drowning in Queenstown. 

The British coroner’s court will examine how Emily Jordan, 21, died while river boarding on the Kawarau River on April 29, 2008. 

Britain’s official investigation comes six months after local coroner David Crerar refused to conduct a hearing here – because a New Zealand Government review into adventure tourism, triggered by Emily’s death, was held instead. 

Emily’s father Chris Jordan tells Mountain Scene from Britain that he’s pleased about the UK inquest – set down for two days. 

“There are many facts surrounding Emily’s death that did not come out at the [NZ] trial.” 

Emily died during a Mad Dog River Boarding trip after becoming trapped by a rock. 

In August 2009, Mad Dog’s parent company Black Sheep Adventures pleaded guilty to two Health and Safety in Employment Act charges and was fined $66,000 and ordered to pay $80,000 in reparation. 

Mad Dog owner Brad McLeod subsequently changed his company’s name to The River Boarding Co.
Jordan remains unhappy there was no coroner’s enquiry here. 

“There are so many issues that haven’t been investigated – the legislation and safety control factors, the lack of inspections and events leading up to Emily’s death, and of course what’s happened since.” 

Under UK law, the coroner must investigate when anyone dies outside normal circumstances. NZ witnesses can be requested to attend but aren’t legally obliged to. 

“It’s a truly independent body that can criticise any organisation or indeed Government itself, and frequently does,” Jordan says. 

“[This] leads to many constructive changes in safety – which is clearly a good thing.” 

Jordan also remains unhappy at the NZ fines, adding they were an “absolute insult to Emily’s name”. 

“I thought then and I still think now that the fines were farcical. It’s not a deterrent to any organisation. All we and many others want to see is that our children’s deaths aren’t in vain.” 

River boarding boss McLeod isn’t going to the hearing: “I believe everything in NZ has been done … I think the appropriate action has been taken,” he says. 

The Department of Labour has given affidavit evidence to the UK coroner about the Adventure Tourism Review. 

A court transcript and photos have also been sent, a DoL spokesman says. No Government official will attend.