Obese tramper trapped in ice crevasse dies

John Parisis was 90 minutes into a full-day guided glacier walk when he collapsed and died in June. Photo / Supplied
John Parisis was 90 minutes into a full-day guided glacier walk when he collapsed and died in June. Photo / Supplied

An obese tramper died of a heart attack while wedged in an ice crevasse on Franz Josef Glacier, a coroner's court in Greymouth was told yesterday.

John Parisis, 37, an Australian of Greek descent, was 90 minutes into a full-day guided glacier walk when he collapsed and died on June 12.

Regional coroner Richard McElrea reserved his official finding because of conflicting late evidence that he wanted to discuss with the pathologist.

Others on the tour said Mr Parisis, 1.91m tall and weighing 154kg, had struggled from the start, breathing heavily and falling behind. He had struggled to fit through narrow passages in the crevasses.

When he died he was trying to squeeze through a gap that was 45cm wide at shoulder height and 36cm at waist level. It was just 23cm at the base, where Mr Parisis became wedged when he collapsed.

Others in the hiking group said he was initially conscious and told the guide that he could not breathe. Because of his position the guides could not perform CPR.

It took 15 minutes with ropes and pulleys to raise him to the top of the crevasse. CPR began then and continued all the way to Grey Base Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Pathologist Martin Sage said Mr Parisis died of "sudden cardiac arrest in the context of severe exertion and obesity".

He said the guides had done an amazing job to get him out of the crevasse within 15 minutes, but that "downtime" made his chances of survival "essentially nil".

Glacier guide Jason McBride gave similar evidence to the other hikers, but denied that Mr Parisis was conscious and talking: "He was non-responsive."

Franz Josef Glacier Guides operations manager Craig Buckman said prospective clients were shown a video of the route, warned of the level of fitness required and asked whether they had any underlying medical conditions.

They were asked again at the reservations desk and then guides, before the start of the tours, asked a third time to make sure clients were up to the task, Mr Buckman said.

Mr McElrea said the pathologist had made his decisions based on the evidence that Mr Parisis was alive and communicative soon after the fall. Before closing the inquest, he wanted to know if Mr McBride's contrary view changed Dr Sage's opinion.

- NZPA

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