The owner of a New Zealand adventure sports company has been ordered to pay more than £61,000 in fines and compensation after a Worcestershire tourist drowned while riverboarding
Emily Jordan, 21, of Trimpley, 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.
Black Sheep Adventures Ltd, which trades as Mad Dog River Boarding, and company director Brad McLeod had both denied three charges each of failing to ensure the safety of their customers.
But on Monday all charges against Mr McLeod and one against Black Sheep Adventures were dropped, with the company pleading guilty to the remaining two. The company was fined 66,000 New Zealand dollars (£27,600) and was ordered to pay £33,500 in compensation to Miss Jordan’s family.
Earlier, Queenstown District Court heard that Mad Dog River Boarding guides did not carry ropes and that the company’s safety operation plan fell short of industry standards.
Miss Jordan was trapped underwater for 20 minutes by a rock until another boat carrying ropes arrived and freed her body on April 29.
Speaking from the family home in Trimpley, before the ruling, Miss Jordan’s mother Sarah said she was pleased the company had pleaded guilty but found it “incredible” there were no corporate manslaughter charges in New Zealand.
“It just seems incredible that there are no corporate manslaughter charges in New Zealand, which is part of the reason why these activities go on - because these companies, especially some of them, know that they can get away with no safety regulations, no training, no safety equipment,” Mrs Jordan said.
“We were obviously pleased that the company has been found guilty. It was what we would expect from all we’ve heard from the court case.
“I don’t think there was any other conclusion to this really.”
Miss Jordan’s father, Chris, who has sat through the court hearings, told Radio New Zealand he always hoped to see a conviction and hoped to see changes taking place with regard to the way river boarding and some other extreme sports were run.
Mr Jordan said it had been hard to listen to some of the details about how his daughter died, especially because of “the preventable nature of some of the things that happened.”
Speaking after the case, Maritime New Zealand investigations manager Steve van der Splinter said: “Health and safety legislation is there for a good reason - to safeguard people’s lives,”
“The Act was clear that responsibility for safely at all times fell squarely on the shoulders of operators, which meant they must keep up to date with current industry best practice.
“In this case, there was a wide gap between the normal accepted industry-wide standards of safety practised by other white water operators and those used by Mad Dog.
“This has been a tragic case and all our sympathies are with the Jordan family. We hope the result today brings at least a little comfort for them.”