20 Aug 2009

River company failed to meet safety standards - guide

3:30 pm on 20 August 2009

The river boarding company at the centre of a court case involving the death of an English tourist failed to meet safety standards, an experienced rafting guide says.

Mad Dog River Boarding and its director Brad McLeod are facing three charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act in relation to the death of Emily Jordan on 29 April 2008.

Maritime New Zealand is prosecuting the Central Otago company at the Queenstown District Court. Each of the charges carrying a potential $250,000 fine.

Miss Jordan, 21, drowned after she entered a rapid and became entangled and trapped against a rock in the Kawarau River. She was under water for 20 minutes.

On Thursday, the court heard evidence from Donald Carter, who has 23 years' experience in the white-water industry.

Mr Carter said Mad Dog River Boarding's safe operational plan did not meet industry standards in relation to the identification and management of risks.

He also said it was bad practice to understate the risks to customers in safety briefings.

Earlier in the week, Mad Dog's operations manager at the time, Nicholas Kendrick, told the court the company policy was not to scare customers in safety talks, but put an emphasis on fun.

The company's operational plan was not one approved by Queenstown Lakes District Council, the court was told on Wednesday.