Andrew McAuley corners inquest report released - Coroner criticises kayaker rescue delay

Friday, 08 February 2008
Andrew McAuley
Andrew McAuley
New Zealand Coroner, Trevor Savage has released his report today from the inquest into the tragic death of Australian kayaker Andrew McAuley during his ill-fated voyage across the Tasman Sea.

Since they never recovered the body of Andrew and it would be impossible to pinpoint exactly how he died; the inquest mainly focused on what happened after the emergency call was received the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre.

The inquest in December heard that when McAuley got into trouble on February 9, he issued a garbled distress call at 7.13pm but because of confusion over whether the call was genuine, it was not until 8.32pm that the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand's (RCCNZ) John Seward made a decision to search for the kayaker.

"A concern I have is that it was not until 2135, an hour after the assumptions were made, that Mr Seward first made contact with (search crafts) Southern Lakes Helicopters," Savage said.

Savage also criticized the fact that the adventurer's wife Vicki or the kayak's builder Paul Hewitson were not immediately played Andrew's full emergency message. Part of McAuley's distress call was played to Vicki McAuley at 10.23pm, but she was unable to positively confirm it was her husband's voice. Vicki McAuley told the inquest that had she been played more of the tape she would have recognised her husband, allowing his support crew to immediately calculate his position.

The coroner also criticized Andrew McAuley for being to reliant on the satellite phone for communication and that his VHF receiver carries to short of a range. Savage also said McAuley's emergency beacon should have been tethered to his kayak.

"In the end Andrew's watch had run out of battery power, the backup satellite phone was inoperable and the primary phone had run out of, or was running out of, battery power," Savage said.

More info: The Age

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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