Man plunges from cliff to death

'They did everything they possibly could have done'

Last updated 08:09 20/02/2014
Drown

FATAL FALL: A man walks away from an ambulance where St John medics attempted to revive a man at the base of a cliff near Raumai Reserve yesterday.

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A man has died after hitting his head on rocks at a river cliff in Manawatu.

The 33-year-old man had been swimming with a group in the Pohangina River near the Raumai Reserve bridge when the group decided to climb a rope on a cliff about 5.45pm yesterday, Sergeant Kaine Austin, of Palmerston North, said.

"They've decided to jump off the cliff and as the man has done so he has [hit] his head on a rock on the way down."

The fall from the top of the cliff to water level is about 15 metres.

The reserve area was crowded with people, including children, cooling off in the river after the hottest day in Manawatu since January 2011. Bystanders had rushed to help the man, Mr Austin said.

"A number of members of the public have gone to his aid. They brought him onto shore and have attempted to perform CPR on him, but this has been unsuccessful and unfortunately the man has died.

"We want to thank all of the people who were assisting. They did everything they possibly could have done."

One of those bystanders, who asked to be known only by his first name, Ara, witnessed the accident.

"All of a sudden I saw him up the top of the cliff.

"He just stepped off, he just stepped, and he hit the cliff halfway down and then again at the bottom and then he just rolled into the water."

Ara said he raced to the river but it was already packed with people trying to find him.

"There were people I heard yelling out ‘I can't find him'. He was probably under the water 30 to 50 seconds before he was found and we were able to drag him out."

Once on the shore, Ara said, the man appeared to be breathing but his eyes had rolled back into his head.

"There were a lot of people assisting him. My partner gave the count for CPR as one lady did it."

Two ambulances, two fire trucks and police officers arrived at the scene shortly after, with St John medics taking over attempts to revive the man.

Ara said the experience had been particularly traumatic because of the number of children who had witnessed it while swimming.

Mr Austin said the death, which has been referred to the coroner, should serve as a warning to those swimming in rivers.

"People need to be careful when they are diving into an unfamiliar piece of water.

"They need to make sure they are not going beyond their means."

Travis Thomson arrived at the river with a group of friends as the incident was unfolding.

Mr Thomson, who is a regular at the area, said there used to be warning signs next to the rope but they were not there yesterday.

The cliff-face had slipped during last month's 6.3 magnitude earthquake and another slip had occurred just minutes after they had arrived, he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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