Harness Failure Leaves Woman Dangling At Nevis Bungy Swing – updated July 2016

Tarla Carpenter hanging by her armpits on the bungy swing

July 2016 update: There’s been another incident at the Nevis Bungy Swing where a male customer and an instructor fell off the platform, meanwhile the MD got off a drink driving conviction so he could travel to Canada . Stay tuned for updates…

A Queenstown adventure-seeker got more than they bargained for after an equipment malfunction at the AJ Hackett Nevis Swing left them hanging 160 metres in the air…A staff member was also knocked outside the swing deck during the incident before being hoisted back in. He was on his safety line, but was knocked off the edge of the jump deck.  When asked what went wrong, he said, “it’s impossible to explain the complexities of the system to a lay person”.

AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand managing director Henry van Asch said staff pulled the swinger back into the pod, and provided support and reassurance. source

Drink Driving Charge

Interestingly, Mr Henry Van Asch was recently caught drink driving at over three times the limit but was “discharged without conviction” because a criminal conviction would’ve messed up his ability to travel to Canada on business and promote Kiwi know how abroad.

Dawkins says a drink-drive conviction would halt the trip, leading to consequences for the business, for New Zealand tourism workers likely in future to be deployed abroad, and for the export of NZ knowledge.

Judge David Ongley agreed the consequences of a conviction were out of proportion with the gravity of the offending. source

An Australian tourist, Tarla Carpenter was left hanging above a chasm after a serious harness failure left her dangling by her armpits at the Nevis Bungy Swing in the Nevis Canyon, Queenstown.

New Zealand has for a long time had a reputation for not taking safety seriously in its adventure tourism industry. The sector is poorly regulated, has been called ‘third world’  and has far too many fatalities and serious injuries, not least the Carterton Ballooning tragedy and the Fox Glacier sky diving and helicopter crashes. For more see articles tagged adventure tourism.

The Nevis Bungy Swing is 160 metres above the canyon floor and riders move at speeds of up to 150kph in a 300 metre arc.

The tourist attraction, run by AJ Hackett, offers thrill seekers a death defying leap over a mind numbing drop. Tarla Carpenter and her boyfriend Matthew Pararta were on vacation in New Zealand when the couple opted for a ride on the bungee swing.

A restraining strap with an empty carabiner, could be seen dangling behind her. It is hard to tell what exactly happened but in the above picture it looks like the webbing seat she was sat on either detached, or slid up her back.

I think she’s gunna fall!

The ride started well with Tarla and her partner both seemingly strapped into their harnesses in a seated position. However, after leaving the platform Tarla  suddenly slipped through her hardness and the couple swung out over the chasm. She was just inches away from falling 500 feet to the rocky bottom.

“Everything that was around my legs became around my underarms” a traumatised Tarla told reporters from Australian TV show A Current Affair “and it felt just like I’d slipped through like a net almost, and then caught me under my arms”

“Get us up!” shouted Matthew “I think she’s gunna fall!” and by the time the couple came back into sight of the platform she was “barely hanging on. It was a near catastrophic malfunction of her safety equipment” according to the Current Affair reporter.

“I just pretty much hung on for dear life and just gripped on to whatever was in front of me” said a visibly upset Tarla, who has been left with “horror holiday memories”

Tarla said it was a miracle she didn’t fall to the ground and her shocking experience has turned her off bungy jumping forever.

We think Tarla was incredibly lucky to have survived her ordeal and our best wishes go out to her.

Unfortunately, as our regular readers will know, there have been a high number of near misses and fatal accidents in New Zealand’s adventure sports industry, ‘accidents’ that have continued to occur despite new registration requirements.

The new regs, made under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, only came into effect until October 2011 – three and a half years after the drowning  death of British tourist Emily Jordan sparked a review of the adventure tourism industry within NZ.

Incredibly there will a a further delay of  three years until all 1,5000 adventure tourism businesses must be registered and in possession of a safety audit certificate in New Zealand. How many people will be traumatised, maimed or killed in that time?

We’re very disappointed to see something like this has happened and it makes us question how many other near misses there have been. This one only seems to have come to light because an TV show got hold of the footage. (read Australian Tourist Injured In Bungy Accident, Another Has Collapsed Lung May 2010, to see how wrong things can get)

For background read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald – “Adventure tourism a deadly business” August 24 2010:


Adventure tourists are killing themselves for a good time in New Zealand.  So much so that the government is looking at tougher measures to improve safety in the industry.

During five years (July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2009) 39 people died in NZ in what are recorded as workplace activities. But the actual number is likely to be much higher as recreational deaths were not included…” read full article here

There have been several bungy related ‘accidents’ in New Zealand (partial source NZH):

In May 2010 Australian tourist, Kristy Moulder, slipped out of her bungy harness and was seriously injured in the rocky Waiau River.

In 2009 New Zealand university student Catherine Peters died after she fell fell 20 metres from the Ballance Bridge swing in the Manawatu Gorge. Alistair McWhannell was later found guilty of manslaughter. The court was told that bridge swing was dangerous in that “the  rope was allegedly too long and not tied off properly.” At the time of her death there were no required safety standards for  bridge swinging in New  Zealand:

In May 2003, Rotorua woman Jamie Shaw, 19, suffered severe bruising  after falling more than 8m into a stream after her foot slipped from the  bindings during a tandem bungy in Rotorua.

In September 2000, a Taiwanese tourist, 29, received head injuries after  slipping from a harness and falling 25-30m into the Waikato River.

And in 1997, Canadian Nancy Todd, 20, plunged into the Shotover River  near Queenstown after part of her bungy detached as she rebounded from a  jump in Skippers Canyon.

You may also be interested in 

Articles tagged Adventure Tourism deaths and these posts:

International Tourists Plead for Stiffer Rules in NZ’s Tourism Sector

Excitor III and Mac Attack Companies Fined For Broken Backs

New Zealand’s Reputation “Vulnerable” after Lake Waikaremoana Bridge Collapses, 4 French Tourists Injured – Updated with Video

Etienne Lemieux and Louis-Vincent Lessard. Two bodies found. DOC does NOT manage avalanches on the Kepler Track

Another New Zealand Adventure Tourism Fail – Shotover Jet Boat Crashes Against Rock, Again

Canadian Justice System Went Where NZ’s Fears To Tread – updated

“No Accountability in New Zealand” Fox Glacier Aviation Disaster

BBC Interview with family of Bradley Coker. Adventure Tourism must learn from NZ crash. Cannabis Use

Carterton Ballooning Tragedy, Urgent Checks Follow Air Worthiness Concerns (Feb 2012)

Thrillseekers Adventure Ltd Fined For Bungy Fall (May 2011)

Tom Donaldson Inquest – Coroners Says ‘Warn Tourists’ (Nov 2010)

Wellington Reverse Bungy Closed Amid Safety Fears (Dec 2010)

Tourists Seriously Injured In Bay Of Islands Boat Incidents (April 2011)

Alistair McWhannell Guilty Of Manslaughter In Swing Bridge Death (June 2010)

Fox Glacier Plane Crash, Nine Dead Including Four Tourists (Sept 2010)

Tourists Injured in Queenstown Jet Boat Crash, Another Died Swimming With Dolphins (Nov 2010)

Australian Tourist Seriously Injured By Dophin Boat (Dec 2010)

Tourists seriously injured in collision between Outward Bound cutter and a Dolphin Watch Ecotours (Feb 2011)