Another Adventure Tourism Death Results In Prosecution. Tor Prestmo

 Foto: Gina Hindseth

Whilst the review of the Adventure Tourism industry is put on a back burner, until the busy summer season has passed its peak, a river rafting company has been prosecuted in connection with the death of Norwegian trainee guide Tor Prestmo, age 24.

This appeared on Voxy on 23 December 2009

Wellington, Dec 23 NZPA

A Manawatu river rafting company has been found guilty of failing to ensure the safety of a trainee guide who drowned when the raft he was on flipped on the Rangitikei River.

Tor Prestmo, 24, from Norway, drowned in October 2007 when he was swept under water after a collision between two rafts on a grade five rapid on the river.

The Maritime New Zealand laid 11 charges against River Valley Ventures Ltd, its director Brian Leadson Megaw and rafting manager Koryn John Gould under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

In a ruling released today, Judge Gregory Ross convicted the company on three charges relating to failing to ensure the safety of its employees, and failing to ensure no hazards arose in the workplace that could harm people.

Judge Ross found two charges of being in control of the company at the time of the incident, and failing to take practical steps to ensure no hazards arose for employees faced by Mr Megaw were proved.

Mr Gould was found guilty of one charge of failing to ensure Mr Prestmo’s safety.
But Judge Ross said he would not enter a conviction against Mr Megaw or Mr Gould until he had heard from their counsel at sentencing.

On the day of the incident Mr Prestmo became wedged behind a rock, one metre under the surface.
He had been training with tourism operator River Valley Ventures for three weeks at the time of the accident.

Three other guides and 10 passengers survived the collision and were rescued. The company, Mr Megaw and Mr Gould pleaded not guilty in Taihape District Court to the charges.

During the hearing, crown prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk said the company had neglected standard operating procedures, including safety briefings and assessment of clients’ abilities.

Judge Ross said the company’s involvement with the river should have been intimate and detailed and it should have identified hazards. “Every physical and geographical feature is identified, marked on maps, named and known.”

The judge suggested it would have been practical for the company to have had a qualified guide in the raft with Mr Prestmo.”

As far as we are aware this is the 8th prosecution notified this year relating to deaths or injuries sustained in adventure tourism activities in NZ, the others include

  • Paul Woods – A British general surgeon at Dunedin Hospital died when the jet boat he was a passenger in flipped after hitting a gravel bank in the Matukituki River. His partner Dr Leanne Tonney and her brother Dave were injured in the crash. The boat was privately owned.
  • Yan Wang – A Chinese tourist died when the jet boat she was a passenger in flipped at the confluence of the Shotover and Kawarau rivers. The company involved was ‘Kawarau Jet’. 7 other people were injured.
  • Sarah Katie Bond – A British tourist who died from her injuries during a quad bike trek run by ‘Waitomo Big Red’ 30km west of Waitomo Caves last August.
  • Emily Jordan – A British tourist who drowned whilst riverboarding with ‘Mad Dog River Boarding’ on the Kawarau river. The company was fined NZ$66,000. (US$46,000)
  • Catherine Peters – A New Zealand university student who died from her injuries after falling from the Ballance Bridge Swing.
  • Six students and a teacher – Died in a canyoning exercise with the Sir Edmund Hilary Outdoor Centre, the centre was fined NZ$44,000.
  • Rosemary Berry, a semi retired Australian tourist broke an arm and shoulder whilst skiing and sustained other injuries after she fell over an metal track left in the snow at the Cardrona Ski Resort. The company subsequently tried to appeal against its conviction of fines and costs totalling almost $60,000.

We hope that the review doesn’t take too long and that the report’s recommendations are implemented swiftly as soon as it is published.

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