28 Jul 2008

Teenager dies in Mt Aspiring National Park

6:44 am on 28 July 2008

Otago University student Leonard Phease, 19, has died while climbing with a group in the Mt Aspiring National Park.

Wanaka police say he slipped and fell on Saturday afternoon while traversing a steep, icy section of the track to Liverpool Hut, in the Matukituki Valley.

Police say he died instantly from injuries sustained during a fall of about 100 metres down a rocky snow gully.

He had been wearing running shoes, and police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Aaron Nicholson says this is believed to have been a major contributor to the accident.

Constable Emma Fleming says Mr Phease was carrying tramping boots but wearing running shoes at the time.

"It's possible he was thinking he would look for a better spot, a safer spot, to change his footwear ... but with the hut being in sight perhaps they were spurred on to get to the hut before they made that change."

She says the students appear to have been caught out by the difficulty of the conditions.

The teenager's death has been referred to the coroner.

Otago University Tramping Club president Sarah White says the club's members are devastated by the death of Mr Phease.

She says club was holding a trip in the park at the time but the student was not part of that group.

Ms White says Leonard Phease had been a club member for 2½ years, and was known for his kind and encouraging personality.