Father faults Topec for son's death

SWEPT OUT TO SEA: Spotswood College student Stephen Lewis Kahukaka-Gedye.
SWEPT OUT TO SEA: Spotswood College student Stephen Lewis Kahukaka-Gedye.

The father of a teenager swept out to sea while rock climbing on Paritutu last month has hit out at outdoor pursuit organisation Topec over his son's death.

In a letter to the editor sent to the Taranaki Daily News, New Plymouth's Bruce Gedye writes of his anger towards Topec and the "simple mistakes" that led to three people, including his son, drowning on August 8.

Topec instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42, and Spotswood College students Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Felipe Melo, both 17, died in raging seas last month while tackling the Paritutu traverse.

"There were a lot of simple mistakes leading up to the death of three people," Mr Gedye's letter said.

"The public will hear my version of what went on that tragic day because the public needs to know how easily this was avoidable."

"In my opinion Topec, you are not a victim, you are the creator of this tragedy. Thank you for destroying our lives," he said.

The Taranaki Daily News tried to contact Topec's board chairman David Grigg yesterday, but he was unavailable.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, police and Topec are conducting ongoing investigations but Taranaki secondary school students have resumed courses at the outdoor pursuit centre.

"I personally would not send anyone there until at least the investigations were finished," Mr Gedye said.

Mr Gedye, who continues to search for his son daily, said the Paritutu traverse was a high-risk activity completed by Taranaki children under the control of Topec.

"The more risks that are identified, the more controls are put in place to eliminate, isolate or minimise that risk hazard," he said.

"If you cannot reduce the risk to a manageable level through pre-planning controls, then you find a new method of doing that activity.

"Topec's instructors should all be trained in identifying hazards."

Mr Gedye said risk management, rescue plans and training problems were still to be fixed.

A search party of 14, family and friends of the Gedye's, continued with quad bike searches between Wai-iti and Mokau on Sunday.

"We will carry on searching until we find our son," he said.

Taranaki Daily News