The highly critical jury at the Coronial inquest into the death of British tourist Emily Jordan has returned a verdict of Death by Misadventure.
Emily drowned whilst participating in a commercially organised river boarding excursion with Mad Dog River Boarding ( now named The River Boarding Company) on the Kawarau River in New Zealand, 2008.
Read yesterday's blog Emily Jordan Inquest Opens In UK for the circumstances surrounding her death and the "third world" safety conditions that prevail in sectors of New Zealand's adventure tourism industry.
The BBC reported on the hearing, saying
The jury cited factors including lack of equipment and unsuitable life jackets as contributing to her death near Queenstown, South Island in 2008.When Emily became trapped under a rock there was no rescue equipment to pull her out and it took 20 minutes to release her.
The foreman of the nine person jury echoed the words of a NZ coroner at the inquest of Tom Donaldson, another British tourist, who was killed whilst sandboarding at the Omapere/Opononi dunes in New Zealand, i.e. companies need to tell their clients the truth about the risks they are facing.
The jury also criticised the complete lack of safety regulation in regards to riverboarding in New Zealand, a lack of staff training and the absence of vital safety and lifesaving equipment:
"On April, 29, 2008, on the Kawarau River, Emily Jordan was participating in a river boarding excursion, when she became entrapped beneath the water, against a rock, which resulted in her drowning
"The following factors, we feel, contributed to Emily's death. Firstly information and instruction were not given to clients in a way that clearly represented the true risks of danger.
"Secondly, the training received by the guides was inadequate for emergency rescue and entrapment and not specific to this particular activity of river boarding. It was not regulated by an external body.
"Thirdly, lack of essential lifesaving equipment to hand - such as a whistle, rope and knife - was a major factor in delaying the speed of rescue. Also the one size fits all life jacket was clearly unsuitable for river boarding in respect of buoyancy and lack of safety features, such as crotch strap, D-ring and whistle attachment.
"Furthermore, a rescue craft was not available. We believe a combination of all these factors and events contributed to the death of Emily Jordan." sourceThe Coroner, Robin Balmain, summed up by saying
"he would not be making recommendations to authorities regarding Miss Jordan's death. He said: "It does not seem to me to be right to interfere in the affairs of another sovereign country. New Zealand has its own laws, its own social and sporting culture and it seems to me that it is simply not right to interfere with that."
He added: "However, the second reason is perhaps more important and that is that I have heard some detailed evidence of the enquiry that has been mounted in New Zealand into this industry.
“The catalyst for the enquiry was Emily's death and the determined efforts made by her father, who has been tireless throughout this case to see that lessons can be learned where possible and appropriate action taken to lessen the risks to those who participate in these sports."Another report said Mad Dog's staff had panicked when Emily got into difficulties. Another indication of a lack of training
Black Country coroner Robin Balmain criticised Mad Dog Riverboarding, which ran the activity, saying: “The overall impression one gains on listening to the evidence is that the guides panicked, they did not know what to do and they did not have the equipment with which to do it.”
Regulations were eventually introduced following Emily's death, but the government shied away from any requirement to properly and fully inform participants of the dangers they are exposed to when taking part in some 'extreme' activities in New Zealand. It will be interesting to see if 'Prior Disclosure' or 'Informed Consent' amendments will now be made to the present legislation before it begins to take effect in October of this year.
Mad Dog River Boarding/ The River Boarding Company's website only has this brief statement about safety
"River boarding is an adventure. As with all white water activities there is an inherent risk of drowning. All guides are trained to the highest possible standards to help ensure your trip is as safe and enjoyable as possible."Compare that to the current Maritime New Zealand guidelines. Those guidelines say that this statement (or words to a similar effect) should be given to each participant
“White-water boarding is an adventure activity with a degree of risk. Participants should be aware that they will be controlling their own white-water board and the commercial white-water-boarding operator cannot guarantee your safety. In any white-water activity, there is an inherent risk of drowning.”Which statement do you think properly represents the true risks of danger?
20 May Update:
In the days following the trial
Mrs Jordan said: "We were obviously pleased that the company has been found guilty. It was what we would expect from all we've heard from the court case last week. I don't think there was any other conclusion to this really.
"It just seems incredible that there are no corporate manslaughter charges in New Zealand, which is part of the reason why these activities go on - because these companies, especially some of them, know that they can get away with no safety regulations, no training, no safety equipment."
Miss Jordan's father, Chris, who has sat through the court hearings, added that it was "obviously good news" that the company had pleaded guilty.
He told Radio New Zealand he always hoped to see a conviction and "hopefully see some changes taking place with regard to the way river boarding in particular was run - and to some other extreme sports in general.
"To just reduce the horrendous deaths that occur in some of these extreme sports would be my primary aim, my primary reason for coming over (from Britain) this week."
Mr Jordan said it had been hard to listen to some of the details about how his daughter died, especially because of "the preventable nature of some of the things that happened".
He added: "I think that's what's really come home to me, how preventable this death was." source
Our sincere condolences are again extended to the family and friends of Emily Jordan, especially to her father who has worked tirelessly in the hope of preventing other families going through what his had experienced. Unfortunately since Emily's passing other young people have died in New Zealand and there 's also been a number of serious injuries (see below for details and links)
He now plans to write a book and we wish him every success with that and with raising awareness about this issue.
Please visit the The Emily Jordan Foundation which was set up in her memory and give it your support.
You may also be interested in these recent Adventure Tourism blogs
Tom Donaldson Inquest - Coroners Says 'Warn Tourists' (Nov 2010)
Tourists Seriously Injured In Bay Of Islands Boat Incidents (April 2011)
Alistair McWhannell Guilty Of Manslaughter In Swing Bridge Death (June 2010)
Fox Glacier Plane Crash, Nine Dead Including Four Tourists (Sept 2010)
Tourists Injured in Queenstown Jet Boat Crash, Another Died Swimming With Dolphins (Nov 2010)
Thrillseekers Adventure Ltd Fined For Bungy Fall (May 2011)
Australian Tourist Seriously Injured By Dophin Boat (Dec 2010)
Wellington Reverse Bungy Closed Amid Safety Fears (Dec 2010)
Tourists seriously injured in collision between Outward Bound cutter and a Dolphin Watch Ecotours (Feb 2011)
Our NZ adventure tourism facts and stats page.
Today's posts - click here