First reports are coming in for the press conference held yesterday by British man Chris Jordan, father of Emily Jordan who drowned whilst river boarding with Mad Dog River Boarding in New Zealand in 2008. See other posts about the trial here: Emily Jordan
update: Mad Dog later changed its name to The River Boarding Co.
“The grieving father of a 21-year-old woman killed while river boarding on the Kawarau River is calling for actual regulations and stringent safety standards to be imposed on adventure tourism operators.
Emily Louise Jordan (21) died on April 29 last year when she was trapped underwater against a rock for 20 minutes.
Queenstown adventure tourism company Black Sheep Adventures Ltd, trading as Mad Dog River Boarding, pleaded guilty in the Queenstown District Court yesterday to two Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 charges relating to not taking all “practicable steps” to ensure the safety of Ms Jordan and other customers on that day.
A charge of not ensuring employees’ safety and three related charges against the company’s managing director, Brad McLeod, were withdrawn.
The Maritime New Zealand prosecution of Black Sheep Adventures and Mr McLeod began last week, with all charges originally being defended.
In a statement yesterday after the plea change, Mr Jordan asked for changes to the adventure tourism industry in New Zealand.
“Emily died unnecessarily,” he said.
Mr Jordan stopped short of asking for river boarding to be banned, but hoped for changes to ensure such adventure tourism companies were forced to operate the standards expected in “a respected western country”.
Although he accepted most operators would follow guidelines, he said enforceable regulations and safety auditing would ensure all commercial activities offered as fun were also as safe as possible.
Although New Zealand was a “small country”, he said operators could be levied to fund enforcement checks.
“They [companies] are taking money from people for these things – why can’t the money [to regulate and enforce regulations] be taken from that.”
He said Ms Jordan had enjoyed water sports such as sailing, swimming and water skiing all her life and for her to die in water had been a shock to the family.
Refusing to call them “life jackets”, he had seen the buoyancy aids given to clients on Mad Dog River Boarding trips and felt they were “not fit for purpose”.
He said a proper life jacket was required for such an extreme activity, complete with a groin strap to prevent them being pulled off over an unconscious person’s head, as happened during the attempt to rescue Ms Jordan while she was trapped in white water on the Kawarau.
They also needed to be more buoyant – evidence presented to Judge Brian Callaghan over the course of the four days of prosecution evidence suggested Ms Jordan had been between 1m and 1.5m under the surface of the water.
“With adequate buoyancy you don’t go under the water,” Mr Jordan said.
Some even had inbuilt ropes.
Guidelines drawn up in the months after Ms Jordan’s death require all river boarding operations to carry ropes.
Mr Jordan said the evidence of former Mad Dog operations manager Nicholas Kendrick had been “very upsetting to sit through” and there seemed to be a “problem” with guides seeking greater thrills, forgetting the clients were not as experienced as themselves.
He stopped short of calling for river boarding to be banned as he did not want to be a “killjoy” and knew it was “unrealistic”.
“I want to offer something constructive,” he said.
He praised the Maritime New Zealand investigation, but said it would be better to be more proactive and suggested if insurance was required, rather than the ACC system, perhaps insurance companies would “act as quasi police”.
Mad Dog River Boarding pleaded guilty on two charges, the maximum penalty for each offence is $250,000.