Family pay tribute to adventure-loving son Ben Gourdie who died in West Coast river

Christchurch man Ben Gourdie in hot pools the day before he died after being swept away by the Taipo River on the West Coast.
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Christchurch man Ben Gourdie in hot pools the day before he died after being swept away by the Taipo River on the West Coast.

A man who died after being swept away by a West Coast river loved mountains and dreamt of working in tourism. 

Christchurch's Ben Gourdie, 29, was relaxing with friends in hot pools about 9pm on Saturday when he went into the Taipo River, near Jacksons in the Grey district, to cool off.

Robin Gourdie said his son was doing "exactly what he loved with his very best mates" when he died. 

Gourdie's body was found about 1 kilometre downstream in the Taipo River.
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Gourdie's body was found about 1 kilometre downstream in the Taipo River.

he group had walked up the Taipo gorge on Friday and were staying in Julia Hut.

READ MORE: Christchurch man Ben Gourdie dies after being swept away by fast-flowing West Coast river

"They'd dug a hole and got themselves into the hot pools beside the river. There was a big rock they were holding onto and lowering themselves into the river to cool off. They were all doing it, but Ben lost his grip. It's a fast-flowing river," Robin Gourdie said.

Gourdie had been swimming in hot pools when he went into the nearby Taipo River to cool off.
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Gourdie had been swimming in hot pools when he went into the nearby Taipo River to cool off.

"His friends chased off down the river after him, but couldn't see him. He's gone into the gorge and they couldn't risk getting into the river themselves."

The group activated a personal locator beacon and the rescue helicopter arrived about 11pm. They found Gourdie's body about 1 kilometre downstream in a gorge, which was retrieved the next morning.

"They were having fun, having a ball and probably a bit of alcohol was involved," Robin Gourdie said.

"He'd had a motorcycle accident six years ago and had problems with his shoulder so possibly that added to the problem."

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Alex Gourdie said his brother grew up as part of a big family in Timaru and Ashburton. 

"He was always off on an adventure looking forward to his next trip up the mountains. He had an endless amount of energy. He was always bouncing around, lightening up people's moods," he said. 

"He had a really good circle of friends in Christchurch … He wanted people around him that shared his morals and views on life and forced negativity out of his life," Alex Gourdie said. 

The brothers had last seen each other at Christmas in Timaru, but regularly spoke by phone. 

"He called me two days before his trip and he was telling me about his plans. He was so excited about it. I was supposed to be staying with him in Christchurch the day after I got the call [to say he had died].

"He was with four of his best friends. They were doing everything as safely as possible. It was just a tragic accident. There was nothing anyone could have done."  

Robin Gourdie said his son had dreamt of working in adventure tourism. 

"He had been working on a farm for a friend of mine, but that had finished up and he was moving onto the next step. He was going for his passenger's driver's licence and first aid certificate to get into driving tourist buses.

"I talked to him last Thursday and he was telling me about his plans. He loved the mountains. He was an adrenaline junkie. He loved it."

Ben Gourdie's funeral will be in Timaru on Saturday morning.

 - Stuff

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