British Newspaper Publishes “Suicide Hill” Story

According to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper part of the Omapere sand dunes is known locally as “suicide hill”

Source: Telegraph, UK

By John Bingham and Paul Chapman

“(Thomas Donaldson) died in hospital in Auckland on Wednesday after the “sand duning” accident in the north of the country 10 days ago.

Mr Donaldson, from the village of Duffield near Belper, Derbyshire, was riding down the slope on a boogie board – a form of surf board – with three friends at Omapere, 160 miles north west of Auckland, last Monday when he ran into difficulties.

He was airlifted to hospital in nearby Whangerei with head injuries before being transferred to Auckland where he was placed on a life support machine.

His father Michael, 58, a GP in Belper, and mother Jacqueline, 51, are believed to have been at his bedside when the machine was switched off on Wednesday.

A relative at the family home said that they had flown to New Zealand following news of the accident last week.

Staff at Ecclesbourne School near Derby, where Mr Donaldson was head boy, described him as a “wonderful and popular young man of huge promise”.

“His life was a positive influence on many others and the impact of this news has been profound,” said a spokesman for the school.

“Tom’s family are in our thoughts and prayers.”

Sand duning is a cross between snow boarding and surfing in which enthusiasts ride down a steep embankment on a board either standing up or on their stomachs.

Known for its dramatic dunes Omapere has become popular with enthusiasts and has specially marked safe slopes.

But one local witness claimed that the four men had been riding outside a safe area on a near-300ft high embankment with a 90 degree drop at the bottom.

Visitors are frequently warned against boarding on the slope nicknamed “Suicide Hill”.

His companions, who have not been named, reached the bottom but Mr Donaldson landed badly, local reports said.

It is thought the board may have dug into the sand sending him tumbling on.

The others, who also had medical training, gave first aid at the scene before he was airlifted by a rescue helicopter.

The home of bungee jumping, New Zealand has become a Mecca for fans of extreme sports in recent years.

But it carries risks. Recently two Australian brothers died when they were hit by falling ice after crossing viewing barriers at a glacier.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said that the family were receiving consular assistance in New Zealand.”