Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC)
A coroner has found the death of an experienced Swedish hunter, whose body remains unfound in the West Coast, was due to his failure to follow many of the New Zealand alpine hunting best practices.
Three of the most important considerations for alpine hunters, as stated in the NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC) report were adopted by the coroner, which are: all alpine hunters should cautiously consider their route and terrain, always hunt in pairs or more, and should always carry a communications device to keep trusted contacts informed and to contact emergency services if needed.
MSC Chief Executive Mike Daisley said alpine hunting is a tough but rewarding sport, however these trips require extra planning, preparation and solid fitness and skill sets.
Over the past decade, nearly all alpine hunting fatalities, 8 out of nine, have been a result of a fall, and frequently they are solo hunters.
On May 12, 2017, Hans Christian Tornmarck, 28, a veterinarian who was in New Zealand for a hunting and tramping holiday, set out on a solo hunt for tahr in the Regina Valley, in the West Coast of the South Island.
He was last seen by another hunting party the following morning at the Cassel Flat Hut.
A trusted contact alerted police that Tornmarck was expected to return by the evening of the May 17 at the latest, but never did.
An eight-day search effort saw the search of huts in the Regina Creek area by helicopter, and the area where he was suspected to have been hunting. Search and Research (SAR) stated that the heavy terrain and scrubby bush, and steep drop offs as well as snow and ice made the search challenging and unsafe.
On day three of the search for Tornmarck, his campsite was found at the head of the Regina Creek at 920m above sea level. There, searchers found his tent and sleeping bag, and food, and concluded he had all his hunting and emergency gear with him on a trip to get a closer position to shoot an animal.
MSC believe the most probable cause to Tornmarck’s death was that he fell in an attempt to shoot or recover a tahr.
The search was suspended on May 24.
MSC provided a report to Deputy Chief Coroner Anna Tutton on recommendations and suspected factors into Tornmarck’s death, given his body has not been found.
“Alpine environments are steep and exposed by their very nature, so route finding is critical, not to mention the weather can turn quickly and a hunter’s ability to shelter can be minimized by terrain,” Daisley said.
Tornmarck was in one of the most remote and steep alpine areas in the country, and the Regina catchment is a particularly steep and dangerous area for outdoor activities.
Daisley said taking communications devices, not just a cellphone, should be on all hunter’s gear lists, especially those going into alpine areas.
“Packing a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), InReach/satellite message device (SMS) or satellite phone will help you keep in touch with trusted contacts and help in an emergency situation.”
There are many safety benefits of hunting with another person including support on decision making.
“Without a hunting partner, you may be more likely to make a mistake in judgement and have a harder time recovering from the error.”
Daisley said MSC offers free resources on alpine hunting, hunting safety and general outdoor support on its website.
MSC’s condolences are with Hans Christian Tornmarck’s family and friends.
Mountain Safety Council has been working for more than 50 years to encourage safe participation in land-based outdoor activities throughout New Zealand. They do this through the development and promotion of safety messaging, by identifying and responding to insights provided by the ongoing collection and analysis of data and by building partnerships with relevant organisations.