A keen photographer and experienced high country tramper most likely fell to his death while taking a photo on Mt Aspiring on New Year's Eve
At a coroner's hearing in Wanaka yesterday, the court was told Michael Gillard Taylor, 60, of Wellington, was in the area on a tramping trip with 11 members of the Tararua Tramping Club. He parted from the group to find a new route on Mt Twilight.
Trip leader Hugh Barr said he had discussed going route finding with Mr Taylor, but it was decided Mr Taylor would go alone after Mr Barr felt too tired to go. “Michael asked me if he could go by himself and I was happy that he had the skills and fitness to safely go about the reconnaissance."
However, concerns were raised when Mr Taylor failed to return on the evening of New Year, which Mr Barr considered “disturbing".
Mr Taylor's main passion was tramping and he was made a life member of the club after holding the position of president for three years, Mr Barr said.
When Mr Taylor had not arrived by 7am the next day the group decided to start a search for him and at 9am a radio call was made to raise the alarm with Search and Rescue.
A short time after SAR joined the search, Mr Taylor's lifeless body was found at the bottom of a steep bluff on the northern slopes of the west ridge of Mt Twilight during an aerial search.
He had fallen about 80m to his death.
Search and Rescue officer in charge, police Sergeant Aaron Nicholson said Mr Taylor's broken camera and pack had been found near him but he did not believe he had been wearing them at the time of the fall.
"A reasonable possibility may include the deceased stopping to take photographs of his route or scenery for later reference and in the course of this having lost his balance and fallen from that position," Mr Nicholson said.
It was possible he was putting his camera, which was too large to tramp with around his neck, into his pack or taking it out at the time of the fall.
The SD card from the camera was not recovered, believed to have been lost during the fall, Mr Nicholson said.
Otago Southland Coroner David Crerar said a pathologist report found Mr Taylor died instantaneously after the fall from "extensive and severe non survivable injuries" and there had been no signs of a medical event before the fall.
His death highlighted the dangers of tramping solo, Mr Crerar said.
Mr Crerar reserved his formal findings to be in writing.
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