Coroner's warning after young canoeist's death

A TOP young canoeist from Ripon was among five people to die in separate incidents on New Zealand's waterways in the space of two years, it was revealed this week.

It led Coroner Geoff Fell to issue a warning about the unique dangers for canoeists on the rivers of New Zealand at an inquest on Wednesday into the death of 19-year-old Eleanor Rutter.

After adopting the verdict of accidental death already recorded at a New Zealand inquest, Mr Fell told the Harrogate hearing that he would ensure the findings were passed to the British Canoe Union and those concerned in outdoor education activities in the UK.

Eleanor, a former Ripon Grammar School pupil, was a member of the Great Britain Junior Ladies Kayak team. She came seventh overall in the pre-World Championships on an Olympic course in Australia shortly before she died in March, 2004, and was on a gap year before going to Edinburgh University to study medicine.

She died after becoming separated from her kayak on the Crooked River, near Rotomanu, on South Island's west coast. Another canoeist walked for two hours out of the bush to raise the alarm and her body was recovered by a helicopter the following day.

Eleanor, who lived in College Road, Ripon, with her mother, Vera, and sister, Anna, was found trapped underwater between two rocks. She died from drowning.

Her father, solicitor Howard Rutter, of Harrogate, who attended the New Zealand inquest and and re-traced his daughter's footsteps on a hike through the bush to the Crooked River, told Mr Fell it was not known why she had left the kayak.

"When she came out of the boat she had a split second decision to take, " he said.

Ahead of her was five to 10 metres of fast flowing river before the rocks.

Canoeists are taught to put themselves into a flat white water swimming position, allowing them to ride to safety.

Mr Rutter said: "She was trapped in a seizure and she was still trapped the following day."

He told Mr Fell that nobody was to blame for his daughter's death.

"This was a tragic accident which I, Eleanor's mother and sister have to live with the consequences of every day, "

Mr Fell read the findings of the New Zealand coroner who said: "This was a tragic death of a young woman who has achieved so much at 19 years, yet had so much to achieve in the future."

Endorsing the New Zealand Coroner's opinion that canoeists worldwide needed to be aware of the special risks, Mr Fell said the circumstances deserved the widest publicity.