Still No Inquest For Emily Jordan


Emily Jordan died riverboarding in NZ

Almost three years after her death and there still hasn’t been an inquest into the death of British tourist Emily Jordan.

Emily Jordan drowned whilst participating in a commercially organised river boarding adventure on the Kawarau River in New Zealand on 29 April 2008.

In August 2009 Mad Dog River Boarding was prosecuted for health and safety breaches in relation to her death and fined. At the time of the trial her father Chris Jordan asked for an inquest to be held.

Shortly afterward Mr Jordan wrote to New Zealand’s Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism John Key asking for regulation of the NZ Adventure Tourism Industry, saying safety regulation in NZ was “third world“.

In response the the government announced a ‘review’ of the industry, after some delays the results of which were published in August, revealing that the were gaps in  safety procedures within the industry and recommended auditing and registration (not licensing) of adventure tourism operators in New Zealand.

A few months ago, in an interview with Scene, “The free voice of Queenstown,” Chris Jordan has said he was going push for an inquest into his daughter’s death to be held in the UK if one isn’t held in NZ. He said that he was disappointed to still be waiting to hear if one will be held.

“I don’t believe that I sitting in the UK should be insisting on an inquest in New Zealand – it should happen as a matter of priority…It’s just bizarre to me.”

Scene said:

Otago-Southland regional coroner David Crerar told Mountain Scene last week that he won’t decide whether he’ll conduct an inquest into the Jordan death till after a Government investigation into adventure tourism led by Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson.

Jordan: “I believe that David Crerar is getting the two issues mixed up – there’s a ministerial inquiry which is investigating extreme sports … I don’t understand why [he] has to wait till the end of the ministerial inquiry because that’s got nothing to do with Emily’s individual case.”

As coroner, Crerar has the power to make potentially law-changing recommendations through an inquest. “I’m hoping that David Crerar will make recommendations with regard to improved safety of riverboarding,” Jordan says.

Part of Emily’s legacy must be to create better knowledge of how to avoid these deaths in the future. If no fundamental change takes place, it will happen again.”

He was absolutely right, the review has got nothing to do with the details of Emily’s death, if there are lessons to be learned about why she died what better way to do so than by holding an inquest?

And now, months after the report was released an inquest has yet to be held, and to out knowledge a full inquiry into her death has yet to be performed. Why is that exactly?

Has a decision been made to delay it until after the forthcoming tourism season, so as to avoid adverse publicity harming ‘trade’ or is it to be held back until the Rugby World Cup is over – for the same reason?

The Queenstown coroner, David Crerar, admitted to Scene that there were:

“a number of ancillary matters relating to the death of Emily Jordan that could be the subject of closer scrutiny”

But said he was waiting to see if they were addressed in the report.

So were they addressed in the report, or not?

According to a BBC news report an inquest into Emily’s death was opened in the UK on 9 May 2008, shortly after she died, however it was adjourned.

The West Bromwich coroner, Robin Balmain, said he would wait until a full inquiry into her death was conducted and he hoped the full inquest could be held in New Zealand.

The West Bromwich Advertiser shed more light on Mr Balmain’s decision in an article published on 9 May 2008:

“He added he had been advised by the authorities in New Zealand that the medical cause of death of the 21-year-old, of Valley House, Trimpley, was asphyxiation, due to drowning.

He explained: “She was on a trip with her boyfriend. They were river boarding and, in the course of that, she got into difficulties and drowned.

“This is a very distressing case. The circumstances are quite tragic. I understand she had recently completed a law degree and it is very sad her life should be ended in this way.”

He said there would be a full inquiry in New Zealand and law in England required him to resume the hearing in “due course”.

He added: “When the Government published the draft Coroner’s Bill in June, 2006 they promised they would explore the possibility of coroners not holding inquests in this country in certain circumstances.
“If there is a full inquiry in New Zealand this could be such a case. I hope the Government will give due consideration to that possibility.”

Here we are, almost three years on since Emily Jordan died and there has still not been a full inquiry, nor has there been an inquest in NZ.

The circumstances of Emily’s death, and the lack of regulation governing river boarding in NZ, risk being being rolled-up together into the general investigation into adventure sports and getting conveniently ‘lost’ within it, never to be heard of again.

For that to happen would be manifestly unjust, Emily and her family deserve better.