15 Aug 2008

PM leaves hut to be with guide's family

8:30 am on 15 August 2008

The Prime Minister and one of her cabinet ministers have been able to leave a hut in the Canterbury back country, after their mountain guide died.

Gottlieb Otto Braun-Elwert, 59, a friend of Helen Clark, had a suspected heart attack on Thursday.

Dave Crow of the New Zealand Mountain Guides organisation told Morning Report that Miss Clark and Damien O'Connor left on Thursday night to be with Mr Elwert's family.

They travelled via snow mobile.

Other members of the party remained at the hut overnight, with the body of Mr Braun-Elwert.

Inspector Dave Gaskin, told Morning Report that police hope to bring the rest of the party out by helicopter on Friday morning, if weather conditions permit.

Police say an emergency call was received in the afternoon from the Two Thumbs range near Lake Tekapo, where the group was holidaying.

Those with Miss Clark, her husband Peter Davis and her niece, included cabinet ministers David Parker and Mr O'Connor.

They are at the Rex Simpson Hut at an altitude of nearly 1300 metres.

CPR was reportedly carried out on Mr Braun-Elwert for several hours.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister says she is shocked and distressed at the sudden death of a close friend.

Mr Braun-Elwert took trips with Miss Clark for the last 11 years. He was regarded as a pinnacle of the climbing community for nearly three decades.

Tekapo base

He emigrated from Germany in 1978 where he worked as a nuclear physicist.

He made his base in Lake Tekapo where he began a mountain guiding company with his wife Anne, in 1981.

Mr Braun-Elwert climbed Mt Cook 26 times. In 1989, he climbed all of New Zealand's peaks over 3000m in one winter.