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Tai Poutini Polytech - Coroners inquest

July 20, 2004

Tai Poutini Polytech outdoor approach exceeds international standards - coroner’s inquest

Tai Poutini Polytechnic confirmed today it will willingly accept the findings of today’s coroner’s inquest at Murchison into the death of Wellington student Timothy Jamieson on the Buller earthquake run on February, 2002.

The Greymouth-based polytech said it will take any further action deemed appropriate to ensure its practices do not unnecessarily expose students to undue risk.

Staff and students were provided with counselling following the tragedy. The polytech initiated independent reviews of kayaking and rafting activities and their recommendations have been accepted.

A memorial service was held for Timothy at the Polytechnic in April this year. This was preceded by a raft trip arranged on the Buller River for the family. A memorial stone and plaque was placed in the Cave Creek Memorial Garden in the grounds of the polytech.

The log in the Rodeo Rapid that caused the tragedy has since been removed. Jamieson completed an undetermined number of paddling days and a four-day river rescue course just before the accident occurred. He was a solid intermediate kayaker with the training and skill to run Class III rapids independently.

The Tai Poutini outdoor programme teaches students to recognise and take account of hazards. This approach has been supported by local and international experts who believed Tai Poutini’s approaches and staffing ratios met or exceeded best practice internationally.

Chief executive Don Campbell told the inquest the polytech had reviewed and upgraded all its systems and were satisfied they were rigorous and robust.

``They cannot, however, guarantee the removal of all risk. Students who join our outdoor recreation programme engage in high-risk activities.

``Outdoor activities including kayaking, rafting, rock climbing, mountaineering and ski/snowboarding place students in dangerous situations. This is the nature of the programme. Students are taught to recognise and mitigate risk.

``We do not believe that the accident was caused by any failure on the part of Tai Poutini Polytechnic. We believe that the programme being run by the Polytechnic was excellent. We are, however, prepared to learn from this tragedy and, as a result, our systems are now even more robust.’’

Mr Campbell said the polytech had ``serious concerns’’ about the criticism in the Maritime Safety Authority report of contracted staff and particularly of instructor Brett Whiteley.

This incident and the MSA report, published widely with names included, had seriously damaged his career in the kayak and outdoor industry, he said.

``The accident in which Timothy Jamieson lost his life has been extremely traumatic and tragic for his family and friends. It has also been devastating for his polytechnic tutors, fellow students and the wider polytechnic community.

``We remain open to any recommendations which might improve our programme and prevent any future such occurrences. We will continue to seek improvements and rise to the challenge of training young people how to best manage themselves in high-risk outdoor environments,’’ Mr Campbell said.

ENDS

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