Witnesses sought to rockfall tragedy

By Abby Gillies, Chloe Johnson

Locals say there have been a number of recent rockfalls at Rothesay Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday
Locals say there have been a number of recent rockfalls at Rothesay Bay. Photo / Jason Dorday

Engineers are to examine the area where a rockfall killed an Auckland woman out walking her two dogs yesterday.

Police have named the victim as 44-year-old Inna Viktorovna Rudyy, a New Zealand resident, of Murrays Bay.

Ms Rudyy was walking her dogs around 1pm at the base of Rothesay Bay cliffs on Auckland's North Shore, when rocks from the 60m sandstone face above fell on her.

The two dogs were later found uninjured.

Police visited the family's North Shore home to break the news to her husband and family.

Waitemata police communications advisor Kevin Loughlin said the woman's family was "very upset".

Auckland Council building control manager Ian McCormick said engineers and geotechnicians were examining the area. "The area has ongoing erosion. They recommend that people stay away from the base of the cliff as a precaution."

After the accident, he said, engineers had placed signs in the area to warn the public.

Police say they will continue to do enquiries in relation to Ms Rudyy's death, which is to be referred to the Coroner.

Detective Sergeant Craig McCormack of the North Shore Police is appealing for any witnesses or residents with information to contact him.

Residents said there had been slips in the past few months and a recent fall just hours before the accident.

Local dog owner Penny Millen said there was a fresh rock slip at the track yesterday morning, which she attributed to the previous evening's small earthquake.

"There's a huge big slip," she said. "Lots of big boulders have fallen away from the cliff."

Resident Carol Smytheman said the cliff was mostly made of sandstone and had been unstable in the past few months. "There have been a lot of pohutukawas in the area coming down this winter. We just walked round the cliff last weekend and there have been recent slips on about six occasions."

She said she watched younger witnesses being led away from the area.

"There was a lady shepherding six young teenagers up the road and away from the beach," she said. "It's a beautiful day and this is a sad thing to happen."

The area was prone to erosion, said resident and keen walker Wendy Crabb. "I'm always very tentative of walking there because rocks have fallen before," she said.

Hibiscus and Bays local board chairwoman Julia Parfitt said the area where the woman died, about 50m away from the foreshore, was not a popular walking spot.

"It's not an area well used by the public - most people walk along the formed coastal walkways or along the beach," she said.

It was an unhappy day for the local community: "Our cliffs across the Auckland region weather and erode and we have had a lot of rain ... there are sometimes rockfalls and I think the public has to be aware of that. Whatever has happened is extremely sad."

North Shore councillor George Wood said it was the first time he knew of erosion in the area killing someone. "I've never heard of rocks causing a fatality along the cliff there but there is an element of danger," said Wood. "Unfortunately at this time of year it's always a possibility so people have to be careful."

North Shore councillor Ann Hartley described the accident as "tragic".

Warning signs will be placed along the coast this week.

- Additional reporting: John Weekes, Celeste Gorrell Anstiss

- Herald on Sunday

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