Tramper's death highlights dangers of river crossing - coroner

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A 23-year-old Nelson man who was swept to his death on a solo tramping trip was wearing running shoes rather than boots and his pack seemed heavy, other trampers have said.

A coroner has found Sharny Aaron Abbott, of Richmond, drowned after he was swept off his feet while crossing the swollen Hacket Creek in the Richmond Forest Park in December 2011.

He suffered a dislocation fracture of his vertebra as he was swept along, likely causing paralysis which would have prevented him from reaching the surface.

Mr Abbott left a detailed travel plan when he embarked on the tramp with a 25-30kg pack on Friday, December 2, 2011.

He stayed the first night at Starveall Hut where he got in touch with his mother and girlfriend, telling them he had suffered cramps in his thighs, rubbing on his heels from his running shoes, and rubbing on his lower back from the pack.

The next day he set off for Slaty Hut but turned back because of cloud, telling his mother he would be back on Sunday. He returned to Starveall Hut, where he spent the night talking with a group of other young trampers.

The trampers said Mr Abbott did not strike them as being very experienced, noting the weight of his pack and the fact he was wearing running shoes rather than tramping boots.

He gave the group the impression he was determined to get out of the park and would not hesitate to cross rivers.

They said Mr Abbott had plenty of food with him but his cell phone battery had run flat.

He left on Sunday, the day after heavy rain in the area.

A search was launched after his mother contacted police the following day.

His body was found that afternoon, caught in a willow tree near the edge of the Roding River. Belongings including a tent fly, a running shoe and a bed roll were found elsewhere in the riverbed.

Mr Abbott's body was naked apart from a heavy-duty canvas belt, his clothes having been carried off in the current.

Coroner Carla na Nagara found Mr Abbott had been swept away as he tried to cross Hacket Creek upstream. The creek had been more than half a metre higher than usual after heavy rain in the area.

Ms na Nagara said his death highlighted the dangers of river crossings, particularly when a person was alone. She said it was "a sad reminder'' of the need to be cautious and alert when confronted with the challenges of nature.

- APNZ

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