Ria David and Peter Hollnsteiner Raise Questions About the Safety of Lake Tekapo Kayakers

Days after the tragic loss of James Murphy and Daniel Hollnsteiner in the Lake Tekapo disaster, Daniel’s parents have spoken about the incident. Ria David and Peter Hollnsteiner were interviewed for Staton Island Live news site:

Hollnsteiner’s parents said they have questions about what type of precautions the company took to ensure everyone’s safety.

“These kids were tourists…they have no idea about the dangers of the lake,” the dad said. “Were they told not to go out too far where the winds are stronger? Did they know what the weather conditions were out there? All we know was that they were wearing life vests.”

After the accident, one of the survivors from the United Kingdom who knew Hollnsteiner called the family on Staten Island.

They said the student told them that the weather was calm that day when they first went out on the lake — “He said the water was still, no wind and bright blue skies,” Peter Hollnsteiner explained.

Continuing, he said, “the wind just picked up and wreaked havoc.”

“He told us yesterday that he really loved Daniel and that if he had to give his life for him he would have done it,” Peter Hollnsteiner said.

“Those kids, they’re traumatized,” his wife added.

Peter Hollnsteiner first learned the gut wrenching news of his son’s death when he was traveling home on an express bus from his job in Manhattan and received a call from an official at the U.S. Department of State, he said.

“When I got the call…my first thought was, ‘Did my son get arrested?,'” Hollnsteiner said, adding, “I was emotionally solid at first, but then when I walked in the front door and saw all the family pictures I broke down crying.”


Tributes paid

Our deepest condolences again go out to the families and friends of James and Daniel.

David said her son was the “sweetest, sweetest child”. She last spoke to him on September 21 via FaceTime, five days before his death.

“He was showing me his dorm room, the kitchen, then he bumped into two friends and said ‘I’ll call you back’, but he didn’t. “After that I text him, I found an old photo of the two of us hugging each other when he was about three, I sent it to him and he just responded ‘very nice’. He had a heart of gold – with friends he always lit up the room. He has this warm, charming smile. He’s quiet but he’s always listening, observing and loved cracking jokes.”

Murphy’s brother Michael posted a tribute to his brother on Facebook:

“He is and forever will be a massive inspiration to  me and many other people . He was the nicest and genuinely one of the best guys out there . . . You have given me and so many others such amazing memories, you always had a smile on your face and wouldn’t rest until everyone around you was smiling. I’ll miss you more than anything bro!”

Daniel and James’ deaths were the latest in a succession of tragedies to affect New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry, which in the past has come in for criticism for being poorly regulated and with lax safety standards.

The father of Emily Jordan, a British woman killed while river boarding, spearheaded a campaign with other bereaved families to get New Zealand to tighten up its standards. Emily’s father Chris wrote to Prime Minister Key calling safety regulation in New Zealand “third world“.

 March 2013

“A group of 200 international families have decided enough is enough and are campaigning for a tightening up of New Zealand’s perceived lax safety standards. This is probably a continuation of the campaign that was started in 2010 by the families of deceased British tourists  Emily Jordan, Sarah Bond and Tom Sewell .

This article in the Herald (Dead tourists families plead for stiffer rules after damning inquest) was published days after Auckland man Clifford Brabet died on a team building exercise at the Treetops high ropes activity centre at Woodhill, Auckland.

“…after a damning UK coroner’s finding, (Tom) Sewell has become the new face of international concern about New Zealand’s perceived disregard for safety.

Sewell’s parents, who live on the outskirts of London, have publicly pleaded for New Zealand to tighten up safety regulations. “We are not having a go at the people of New Zealand,” his mother Linda said last night. “We have been there and it is a wonderful country. But people going there should be aware that there are not as robust health and safety rules as there are in countries like Britain.

About 200 families from around the world have written to PM John Key demanding better control, monitoring and regulation of the tourism industry…” read on

There have also been other New Zealand fatalities, not least the tragic deaths of student Catherine Peters, the 6 high school students and a teacher who died in a canyoning exercise with the Sir Edmund Hilary Outdoor Centre, the people who were killed in the Fox Glacier plane crash (9 dead) and the Carterton hot air balloon disaster (11 dead)…

The mother of Sarah Bond spoke about New Zealand’s “she’ll be right” attitude:

What underpins all of this is the lack of safety and lack of care out there,” said her mother, Elizabeth Bond. “It feels like ‘accidents happen’ is their mantra.”

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The British, US and Australian governments have all advised their citizens about safety in New Zealand, but despite the warnings the deaths still continue.

British advice

The British government’s words of caution.

US government's advice to its citizens

US government’s advice to its citizens

Australian travel advice about NZ

Australia’s advice

For background to the Lake Tekapo tragedy read:

Two More Adventure Tourism Deaths in NZ – Overseas Tourists Die in Kayaking Expedition on Lake Tekapo
US and British Students Who Died on Lake Tekapo Named as Daniel Thomas Hollnsteiner and James Robert Murphy
For more about Adventure Tourism Deaths in New Zealand click here: LINK