21 Nov 2014

Mt Taranaki pair died of hypothermia

7:37 pm on 21 November 2014

An inquest into the death of two climbers on Mt Taranaki last year says they died of hypothermia after being trapped on the mountain for two nights in bad weather.

Hiroki Ogawa and Nicole Sutton.

Hiroki Ogawa and Nicole Sutton. Photo: NZ POLICE

Hiroki Ogawa and Nicole Sutton died on 28 October after setting off on a day trip to the summit with the New Zealand Alpine club.

The pair were part of a group that climbed the complicated East Ridge route in deteriorating weather, which Coroner Christopher Devonport said was a poor decision.

Mr Devonport said the failure to turn back in a timely manner before forecast weather arrived resulted in two tragic deaths.

Neither Dr Ogawa nor Ms Sutton were equipped for two nights on the mountain in high winds and freezing rain.

Mr Devonport said the rescuers also faced treacherous conditions and the operation had some structural flaws that, if addressed, would improve future emergency rescues.

He said the alpine club should establish safety goals for all its programmes and develop a training programme for trip leaders.

He also recommended the club include hazard analysis and management as part of trip planning.

Alpine Club already made changes

The New Zealand Alpine Club says it has already started implementing changes to training and leadership after the death of the two climbers.

The club's general manager, Sam Newton said the club had already implemented some recommendations made in an independent report which the club commissioned.

He said the club was able to do this long before last month's inquest.

Mr Newton said the biggest lesson for climbers was to keep track of time and weather.

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