Emily Jordan’s Father Writes To John Key: Safety Regulations Are "Third World"

from The Birmingham Mail, UK. 9 Sept 09

The father of a young Midland tourist who died during a river adventure trip in New Zealand has pleaded with the country’s prime minister to make extreme sports safer.

Law graduate Emily Jordan, from Worcestershire, drowned on a “river boarding” excursion after guides failed to take safety measures.

The operators were fined just £27,600 after admitting that they had failed to secure the safety of their customers.

Emily’s father, Chris Jordan, has now written to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to ask him to prevent future deaths by tightening up regulations, which he says are no better than the Third World.

Mr Jordan also described the fine given to the owners of Mad Dog River Boarding as an “insult”

“The laws in place at the moment aren’t the right vehicle to be regulating this sort of activity and they are not being regulated in any case,” he said. “People are going to New Zealand and expecting that it will be regulated like a western country but that really isn’t the case.

There needs to be high quality and up-front checks on firms like this, but instead authorities only react when there is an incident.

I’m not doing this as some sort of vendetta against these companies, but I want to protect tourists and their families from the sort of pain and grief we’ve gone through.

“I know these activities are going to continue and there are going to be accidents, but even a basic level of safety would have saved Emily.”

Emily, aged 21, from Trimpley, Worcestershire, was riding a body board on fast-flowing rapids when she became trapped in the Kawarau River Gorge on New Zealand’s South Island in April last year.
Ms Jordan was trapped underwater for 20 minutes until another boat carrying ropes arrived and freed her body.

Mad Dog River Boarding company director Brad McLeod pleaded guilty to charges of failing to take steps to protect customers and failing to protect employees last month.

The firm could have been fined up to 250,000 New Zealand dollars (£102,000) for each charge, but was ordered to pay just 66,000 dollars and £33,500 in compensation to the family.

(Ed. Despite presenting a very strong case the prosecution agreed a deal and dropped 4 of the 6 charges, including 3 against the company director, before the defence presented its case. The company then pleaded guilty to the remaining 2 charges. During the trial it was alleged that the company was operating in a “regulatory vacuum” and the suspicion is 4 of the charges were dropped in order to avoid further examining this accusation and to avoid the embarrassment it would’ve caused. The case was neatly wrapped up just days before the announcement that Key was to appear on the Letterman show to promote NZ tourism . Quote:
In his second day in the witness box, Mad Dog River Boarding then-operations manager Nicholas Kendrick told Queenstown District Court the company was operating without specific governing regulations, as they hadn’t yet been created.” source) )

In his letter to Mr Key, Mr Jordan explains that he has spent 16 months investigating the way that extreme sports firms are regulated in New Zealand and was “appalled” at what he had found.
He urges Mr Key: “It is vital that more young people do not die in this way. It is a tragic, unnecessary waste and they leave many grieving people behind for whom life is forever changed.

“This situation is damaging New Zealand’s reputation worldwide.

Outdoor pursuits are due to start again in New Zealand later this month during the summer tourist season.”

An inquest has yet to be held into Emily’s death. The trial was one of at least six prosecutions brought this year in NZ in connection with the deaths of 12 people in ‘adventure’ related activities.

For more posts on about this case and NZ please see the link “Emily Jordan” at the top of this page