24 Sep 2008

Findings issued re death at South Pole

8:11 pm on 24 September 2008

The Christchurch Coroner has issued his findings into the death of an Australian astrophysicist who died in suspicious circumstances at the South Pole eight years ago.

Rodney David Marks, 32, died of acute methanol poisoning in May 2000, but a police investigation continued until last year - because it was unclear how he came to ingest it.

Coroner Richard McElrea has found that Mr Marks died of an undiagnosed methanol overdose.

He was either unaware of the overdose or did not understand the possible complications of it - and his death was unintentional.

Mr McElrea says its likely the methanol came from supplies held at South Pole station, but it is still unclear how Mr. Marks came to ingest the fatal dose.

New Zealand police initially considered foul play or a sinister prank, but Mr McElrea says there was no evidence during the inquest to support that.

The coroner says the death has highlighted an urgent need to set comprehensive rules of investigation and accountability for deaths in Antarctica.