24 Aug 2009

River company pleads guilty over tourist's death

8:49 pm on 24 August 2009

A river boarding company has pleaded guilty to charges following the drowning of a British tourist in the Kawarau River near Queenstown last year.

Emily Jordan, 21, from Worcester in England, drowned in the river in April 2008 when she became trapped in rocks for 20 minutes.

Mad Dog River Boarding has admitted two charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

A third charge against the Queenstown company was dropped, as were three charges under the act against the company's director Brad McLeod.

Earlier, prosecutor Brent Stanaway told the trial Mad Dog River Boarding did not require its guides to carry throw bags and ropes - essential for any rescue attempt - because they considered them a hazard.

Mad Dog River Boarding will be sentenced at the Queenstown District Court on Monday and could face a $250,000 fine on each of the two charges.

Father calls for regulation

The father of Emily Jordan, Chris Jordan, on Monday criticised the lack of regulations governing the sector.

Mr Jordan believes his daughter died because the industry was unregulated and Mad Dog River Boarding ran a "cowboy" operation.

He said resources must be found to govern the industry and called for stringent regulations introduced to stop another death from happening.

"It's not acceptable to say (New Zealand's) a small country, we don't have the resource to do it - because you're actually taking the money off individuals ... who believe that it's safe.

"So if you're prepared to take the money, you've got to have the safety procedures in place."

Legislation adequate, says authority

The Maritime Safety Authority prosecuted the case and said it is a wake-up call for the industry.

Maritime New Zealand manager of investigations Steve van der Splinter said he is pleased Mad Dog River Boarding has pleaded guilty.

However, he stopped short of calling for legislation to govern the sector.

Mr van der Splinter says the Health and Safety Act is adequate and Maritime New Zealand will continue to use that legislation to hold the industry to account.