19 Aug 2009

Key safety info removed from river company policy

6:37 pm on 19 August 2009

A river boarding company had deleted key sections of safety information from its operation plan in the months leading up to the death of a British tourist near Queenstown, a court has been told.

The company's operational plan was not one approved by Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Mad Dog River Boarding and its director Brad McLeod are facing three charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act in relation to the death of Emily Jordan on 29 April 2008.

Maritime New Zealand is prosecuting the Central Otago company at the Queenstown District Court. Each of the charges carrying a potential $250,000 fine.

The court was told Miss Jordan, 21, entered a rapid and became entangled and trapped against a rock in the Kawarau River with her head below the surface. She was under water for 20 minutes.

Nicholas Kendrick, operations manager and in charge of the trip the day of the accident, continued to give evidence on Wednesday.

Mr Kendrick told the court the requirement for guides to hold a current qualification in swift water rescue had been removed from Mad Dog River Boarding's safety plan because the company believed in-house training was preferable.

He told the court the company still encouraged guides to train in swift water rescue but it was not mandatory.

'Desperate' attempt to save woman

Mr Kendrick described the desperate attempt by guides to rescue Miss Jordan.

Under cross-examination, he said that, far from being a simple task of pulling her from the water, it became a 20-minute battle.

Mr Kendrick said initially he and one other guide desperately tried to pull Miss Jordan from the water, but the current was so strong and they pulled so hard they ripped off her lifejacket and wetsuit jacket.

He said a jet ski owned by Mad Dog River Boarding was not used in the attempted rescue because he believed it would have been dangerous to do so.

The prosecution claims ropes would have made the rescue faster.

However, Mr Kendrick told the court that, even after ropes were obtained, it still took as long as seven minutes to get Miss Jordan out.

On Tuesday, he told the court Mad Dog River Boarding did not carry ropes because it considered them a tangle hazard in water.