26 Sep 2008

Chinese envoy in Queenstown after jetboat tragedy

6:09 pm on 26 September 2008

The Chinese ambassador is in Queenstown amid growing concern about the way a rescue was handled after a jetboat overturned on the Kawarau River.

Zhang Lemin is expected to visit the scene of the tragedy and help police with an inquiry.

A Chinese woman died on Thursday when a boat operated by Kawarau Jet hit a sandbar at the confluence of the Shotover and Kawarau rivers.

She lay for 90 minutes beneath the upturned craft before rescuers were able to move it.

Detective Sergeant Graham Bartlett says that length of time is a feature of the police investigation.

Another 22 people in the travel group were hurt. Eight are still in hospital.

Kawarau Jet director Andrew Brinsley says river conditions were ideal and every possible safety measure was in place.

Queenstown harbour master Marty Black has defended how the rescue was handled.

Mr Black says lifting the boat - which weighed almost three tonnes - had to be done safely with professional people and unfortunately that took some time.

Although the Shotover River was swollen from heavy rain, it was still able to be negotiated by jetboats.

Mr Black says the freak accident should not be allowed to tarnish the jetboat industry, which he says has carried millions of passengers safely for years.