Health and safety inspectors to seek details on pool death

By Jimmy Ellingham

The Cameron Thermal Motel.
The Cameron Thermal Motel.

Health and Safety inspectors will seek more details about the death of a woman found at the bottom of a Tauranga motel thermal pool.

The tragedy is the latest in a series of similar deaths that prompted a coroner to warn people not to bathe alone in hot pools.

The owners of the Cameron Thermal Motel discovered 41-year-old Catherine Hintz of Palmerston North about 4.30pm on New Year's Eve. Ms Hintz died despite efforts from the owners and paramedics to resuscitate her.

A WorkSafe NZ spokesman said yesterday the agency hadn't yet been notified of Ms Hintz's death but would follow it up before deciding whether to investigate.

The death follows that of 75-year-old Australian GP Kesho Sharma, whose body was found in a Rotorua motel's thermal pool last month.

After two similar deaths in Rotorua in 2007 and 2008, Coroner Wallace Bain recommended bathers avoid bathing in thermal pools alone and that before anyone entered such water, it was stirred and the levels of hydrogen sulphide gas measured by the pool's owner.

Rotorua District Council bylaws require owners to test their geothermal pools' hydrogen sulphide levels every six months, while pools in the Tauranga City Council district must be emptied and cleaned everyday, have specified amounts of water "flowing through" and have signs warning bathers not to put their heads under water.

Cameron Thermal Motel owner Rein Van Staalduinen said the business was compliant with such requirements.

The motel remained open and was fully booked, while Mr Van Staalduinen said he was "fine" and "coping all right" after the death.

"It's always something that's not a good thing to have happened, but we do cope."

It's not known how long Ms Hintz, an identical twin, spent under water.

Acting Senior Sergeant Cam Anderson said findings from her post-mortem examination, expected to be completed within a week, would be passed to the coroner.

"We don't know what's caused her to end up in the bottom of the pool and until we get the post-mortem results, it's just out there."

Ms Hintz's family members in Palmerston North did not wish to comment, saying they wanted to spend time with each other to deal with what happened to their relative, who was a "really hard worker".

- APNZ

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