Three deaths in a week shake town

MARY-JO TOHILL
Last updated 14:05 27/08/2014
ari kingan
HIGH ACHIEVER: Ari Kingan, who died on Mt Aspiring, pictured in Mount Aspiring National Park last December.

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Things happen in threes, sometimes bad things.

For Wanaka that's certainly true, as it reels in the wake of three tragedies, with three people dying in separate incidents in the last week.

Last Tuesday, Auckland man Jerome Box, 52, died in a helicopter crash on Mt Alta near Wanaka.

On Thursday, a house fire at Albert Town took the life of paraplegic Bruce Cochran also in his 50s, in the third fatal fire in the south this year.

He was farewelled in a formal ceremony in Wanaka yesterday and had his last happy hour at Kai Whakapai, his local hangout, on Monday where a handle of his favourite beer Brewski - also his nickname (Bruceski) - was poured for him.

On Sunday, 21 year-old climber Ari Kingan, who had been living in Dunedin, was killed during his descent from Mt Aspiring's popular but deadly alpine area known as the The Ramp.

A member of the New Zealand Alpine Team, his mates and mentor Daniel Joll, said they had lost a good friend. His passing was recorded on the group's website, ". . . our thoughts are with his friends and family; our sincere condolences to his family Lea, Ross and Dan".

The team also lost another member, Jamie Vinton-Boot, when he fell to his death at the Remarkables, on August 12 last year.

Wanaka-based LandSAR group support officer for the Lower South Island Mike Ambrose, said that when a beacon goes off, it usually means a high degree of urgency.

In Kingan's case, search and rescue teams responded quickly, when his climbing partner set-off the alert shortly before 9pm on Sunday night.

"LandSARs are usually volunteers, they all put themselves forward, and they know what to expect, but that doesn't lessen the impact of what they do," Ambrose said.

The young climber had apparently lost his footing and fell several hundred metres to the Bonar Glacier below.

"When you go out on a job, you're excited, because that's why you volunteer in the first place, to help someone like-minded and in need," he said.

"But you also have to bear in mind what you might find when you get there - stuff you might not want to see."

Mt Aspiring Guides chief Whitney Thurlow of Wanaka said while he did not want to make light of the fact that a tragedy had occurred, accidents and deaths on the mountain were uncommon when compared with road crash statistics.

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- The Mirror

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