Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lucia Canadian tourists who died in a landslide - why? [UPDATE]

Why did no one say to the Canadian tourists who died in a landslide to stay in their town until the road was safe to travel on? Why?

The young couple had arrived in New Zealand two weeks before radiographer Ms Lam was due to start new job at Nelson Hospital on September 15.

They decided to do some travelling before then, and had rented a white VW campervan from a Nelson rental company on September 9.

The next day they enjoyed a guided walk on Fox Glacier before arriving at Haast River Top 10 Holiday Park about 4.45pm.

Manager Norma Dougan told Ms Lam the camp was closed due to the bad weather, and that the next town was Wanaka - a two-hour drive.

Ms Lam asked to use the camp's computer or her phone to contact work and family but Ms Dougan advised the internet connection could not be guaranteed due to the stormy weather. There was strong north-west winds and gale force wind warnings in place.

They ate at the local Haast pub before leaving about 5.35pm - that was the last time they were seen alive.

It took six days before they were reported missing.

I found the sentence that I highlighted above to be absolutely chilling.

Why is there no mention of a recommendation being made for the couple to stay at the town until the storm passed? Surely a local would know about the state of the road and consider it prudent to warn the tourists not to drive in the bad weather that closed the holiday park? That they stopped at a holiday would indicate they didn't want to continue onto Wanaka, and yet there is nothing said about where they could stay rather than having to drive on.

I had my car trapped on the other side of a landslide at Otaki Forks last year, on a part of the road aptly named, "Devil's Elbow". The day was fine, but it had been raining heavily in the days beforehand, and the road was a real goat track. The bank that had collapsed, even a week later after all the dirt and that had been cleared, still looked pretty much almost vertical. My car had gone through before the slip, probably within half an hour of it all coming down. If my car had been in the slip's path, I would have lost both my husband and my younger son in one hit.

I suppose, therefore that I am very much sensitive as to how abysmal our roads here in NZ are. Are we just so used to goat tracks that we think it'll be alright, even if people are sent onto such roads during full on storms?

I don't know what my point is here, beyond just thinking that those two Canadian tourists didn't have to die, if they'd just had somewhere to park until it was safe to drive again.

Related link: Landslide victims tried to turn back, inquest hears ~ NZ Herald

UPDATE [Friday 21 Feb]: Apparently, the couple were warned about how dangerous the road could be by the holiday camp manager, according to Radio NZ.

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