Methven, New Zealand – An unplanned extra run cost a New Zealand heli-skiing guide his life after he was swept away by an avalanche last August in the Ragged Range near Methven, according to the results of a coroner’s inquest.nJonathan Morgan, 38, was leading a group of guests with Methven Heliski when the incident occurred. One of the group triggered the slide, which buried Morgan for more than 10 minutes before his lifeless body was pulled from the debris field. None of the guests, who hailed from Australia and Japan, were injured.
During a coroner’s inquest held in an Ashburton courthouse this week, an avalanche expert testified that the slope conditions where the incident occurred did not meet the criteria set out by the company on the morning of the accident. Methven Heliski manager Kevin Boekholt said he advised Morgan against the additional run, which was requested by the clients, but nonetheless approved it. The route chosen by Morgan reportedly was steeper than terrain approved for the day, lacked an escape route and held steep bluffs at the bottom. A Labor Department health and safety inspector further testified that the chosen pick-up point for the helicopter was poorly chosen.
Just three weeks earlier, Morgan had been one of two guides involved in the rescue efforts to save Llynden Reithmuller, an 61-year-old Australian Methven Heliski client caught in an avalanche, also in the Ragged Range. A total of three clients were buried by the slide, but Reithmuller died at the scene. A coroner’s inquest into that event was also held this week. The coroner has reserved decisions in both cases.