Wednesday , September 19 2018

Inquest into tourist’s death finds DoC at fault

A French tourist might still be alive if the Department of Conservation had acted to install better signage, a coroner has found.

Anne-Marie Scaglione-Genet slipped and fell over the edge of a waterfall in the Fiordland National Park at Gertrude Saddle on January 10 last year while hiking with her husband and a friend.

She suffered serious head injuries and died.

Just ten months earlier, Israeli tourist Udy Brill fell to his death in the same area, also suffering severe head injuries.

The Gertrude Saddle Track is a 4-6 hour round trip described in guidebooks as a “serious alpine route”.

Winding through a glacial valley past lakes and waterfalls, it is renowned for its difficult climbing terrain and spectacular views.

Coroner Marcus Elliot last week released his findings into the deaths of both tourists, saying navigation markers should have been installed following Mr Brill’s death.

He concluded the tourist walked past a key point on the route where he could have safely crossed a stream before descending to the Gertrude Valley floor.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) carried out a visitor incident investigation after Mr Brill’s accident which identified that additional markers were required.

By November 2016, pole-mounted route markers and additional signage had been ordered for the route, but the pre-Christmas installation window was missed, meaning DoC had not installed route markers at the crossing point by the following January.

“DOC should have taken this step in the period following Mr Brill’s death. These markers should have been in place before Mrs Scaglione-Genet fell and died ten months later,” Mr Elliott said.

The French woman, an experienced hiker, descended in the same general area as Mr Brill and found herself below a safe crossing point in an area which was deemed dangerous.

Fiordland trekking guide Andrew Pealing told the inquest the route above the valley floor looked deceptively innocuous.

“Only a few steps to the north it becomes very steep,” he said. “It would be very easy to fall 1000 metres into the valley below.”

DoC said because the region was subject to avalanches, it took the markers out in late autumn and put them back for the summer season.

There are now permanent markers and additional warnings along the route and the department says it intends to continue to assess and review visitor risk concerns.

About Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson
Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews and Accom Management Guide. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: editorial@accomnews.co.nz

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