Police have released the name of the heli-skier who died after being pulled from avalanche debris near Queenstown yesterday.
He was Roger Greville, 58, of Sydney, Australia.
Greville was pulled from the avalanche in the Hector Mountains yesterday afternoon but died soon after.
In a statement this morning police said cause of his death was still unknown, and the death had been referred to the coroner.
The death followed two avalanche events in the area in the past few days where people had been dragged away – one partially buried – but survived.
Greville was one of a party of five on a guided trip run by Southern Lakes Heliski.
Director Julian Field last night says it had been “a tough day”.
He says one of the company’s pilots called the Southern Lakes Heliski operations team at 2.38pm informing it a group of skiers had been involved in an avalanche on the Hector Mountains.
It was confirmed one skier had been buried in snow, and emergency response procedures were activated immediately.
“At 2.48pm, we received confirmation that the skier had been located.
“However, despite the considerable efforts of guides and paramedics the skier was pronounced dead at the scene some time later.”
The trip was “part of our normal operations”.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased.”
Senior Sergeant Darryl Lennane, of the Southern District Command Centre, says Queenstown police responded to the incident.
Police staff have been working closely with the Australian Embassy, and a number of Greville’s family are due to arrive today.
Alpine Cliff Rescue team co-leader Chris Prudden says there had been new snow in the area, so there would be a few spots that were “a little bit sensitive”.
However, overall the snow pack was relatively stable.
Two people in the past week had been dragged down by avalanches near the Remarkables and were assisted by ski patrols.
“It’s a signal to everyone you’ve got to be continuously vigilant on snow conditions,” Prudden says.
“It doesn’t matter even if the avalanche advisory report says the hazard is low, you’ve still got to be vigilant.
“There is no such thing as no avalanche danger when you’re dealing with snow.”
Prudden said activities in the outdoors near Queenstown did involve risk.
“There is a statistic that goes with people going out in the back country.
“That could be with heli-skiing, that could be on foot, ski touring, as people do.
“There’s an element of risk all the time.”
People needed to make themselves aware of safe practices.
Regional avalanche forecaster Chris Cochrane said there had been strong southerly winds in the past 24 hours which had caused “wind slab” conditions, where there was very stiff snow, causing tension in the snow pack.
In his bulletin yesterday he had said the weight of a single person could be enough to trigger an event.
“It’s just an inherent danger that is always present in the back country,” he says.
– Otago Daily Times