Investigation underway into heli-ski avalanche death


Police, Worksafe and the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association are investigating the death of a heli-skier in an avalanche near Queenstown on Monday.

Police yesterday released the name of skier Roger Greville, 58, originally from New Zealand, who had been living in Sydney for many years.

Greville died after being pulled from snow near the Devil’s Staircase, in the Hector Mountains, about 2.45pm.

Footage of the avalanche, captured by a Chinese man, has been shown on ONE News and is on their website.

Greville, an experienced skier and cyclist, was one of a party of five on a guided trip run by Southern Lakes Heliski, which suspended its operations yesterday.

A police spokesman says police were the lead investigating agency, because there had been a death.

Specialist staff members were at the avalanche site yesterday, looking to see if there was anything there that could help explain what caused the death.

A postmortem examination was completed yesterday morning.

A WorkSafe spokeswoman says the organisation had been notified of the death, and was investigating the incident.

New Zealand Mountain Guides (NZMG) vice-president Jane Morris says the guide who had accompanied the party was a member.

NZMG also had an investigator at the avalanche site.

“Obviously with an avalanche you want the information as close to the incident as possible before the site is contaminated,” Morris says.

That could change very quickly with weather, though yesterday was fine.

Investigations would take two or three weeks, including witness statements and interviews of clients.

Guides worked in dynamic and unpredictable environments, and the NZMG had safety procedures, and reviewing and reflecting on trips was done constantly.

After an incident, the organisation wanted to review what occurred, and the result might influence guides’ training, Morris says.

The investigator would be talking to the guide who was working on the day.

Greville, who was originally from Northland, was remembered yesterday as a “straightforward good guy and family man” who loved the outdoors.

Close friend Murray Gribben paid tribute to the man who visited his home country every winter for heli-skiing.

“He lived life to the full – a straightforward good guy and family man,” says Gribben, who worked with the father-of-two at AMP.

“He was a colleague and a really good friend. He was very straightforward about everything he did. He never left you wondering about what he was doing and what he wanted to do.

“He will be well missed.”

Police says Greville’s family had asked for privacy.

Southern Lakes Heliski, which flew Mr Greville on Monday, yesterday suspended operations to give the company time to complete a detailed analysis of the events, and the company’s systems and procedures.

– Otago Daily Times