Student drowned after misjuding waves
An Auckland University student who is presumed to have drowned while taking a seawater sample made "a bad judgment call", a coroner's inquiry has heard.
Yue Gui, 30, known as "Alice", was last seen on June 4, 2011, at the Leigh Marine Reserve Faculty, operated by Auckland University, about 80 kilometres north of Auckland.
Her colleagues noticed she was missing the next day along with the water temperature-measuring apparatus.
Search and rescue teams along with the police dive squad and Eagle helicopter became involved on June 6.
Gui, who was on a scholarship, had been only weeks away from completing her PhD.
On July 18 a leg bone was found by divers, the police dive squad discovered other skeletal remains and a DNA sample matched that of the 30-year-old.
At weekends students were rostered on to take a sea sample to measure the temperature of the water, but were instructed not to go out in adverse conditions.
The method of data collection involved walking down a cliff to a rock platform where the bucket was lowered into the water.
Students were instructed not to do it if the waves washed on to the platform.
However, on the day of Gui's disappearance there were 4-metre swells and she "inexplicably" chose to take the sample.
The only possible explanation for the university's dean of science Grant Guilford was that Gui was a "very determined" student and had ignored safety protocols to retrieve a sample.
"The waves would've been coming across the rock platform and would've knocked anyone off their feet," Guilford said.
"They would've been frighteningly large swells."
During the Department of Labour's investigation they found that Gui had lost a bucket in similar circumstances some months earlier, and had been warned about looking after herself.
Coroner Brandt Shortland was satisfied the university's protocols were "robust, transparent and safe" and ruled she most likely drowned in the severe conditions.
He made no further recommendations.
As a result of the tragedy Auckland University changed its sampling technique, breaking a 44-year period of results gathered by hand.
Despite the tragedy, coroner Shortland commented on a somewhat happier ending.
Colleagues of Gui completed the remainder of her work and her parents will come over from China in September to witness her graduation.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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