Otago and Southland coroner David Crerar has found a 25-year-old German man who went missing while kayaking on Lake Hawea last year drowned despite his body never being found.
At an inquest into the death of Rene Weissange, held in Alexandra yesterday, the coroner said although there was always doubt when there was no body recovered, he was satisfied Mr Weissange had died after falling out of his kayak on August 29 last year.
A search and rescue was launched on August 30 after a workmate called police concerned that he could not contact Mr Weissange and he had not turned up for work the day before.
Mr Weissange, a sociable and active man, had discussed with friends of his intentions of going kayaking on Lake Hawea and paddling to Timaru Creek, on the eastern shore about 9km from the Lake Hawea boat ramp.
Witnesses saw him get into a borrowed kayak, without a life jacket, and launch from the boat ramp about 10.30am on the day he went missing.
Senior constable and Wanaka Search and Rescue squad member Michael Johnston said that day weather conditions had been calm and fine with little to no wind but severe northerly winds came up about 5pm.
Search and rescue volunteers and coastguard personnel spent at least 350 hours searching for Mr Weissange but the search was called off indefinitely on September 18.
His kayak and paddle were found on the shoreline during the search.
Mr Johnston said because the water was cold it was likely his body sunk below 60m which meant there was a "very slim" chance of re-floating. Statistically if a body was to surface it would be between 10 to 15 days, he said.
As a body was not discovered an investigation was held into a possible "staged disappearance".
It was recorded at the inquest he had been in trouble with German police before he arrived in New Zealand.
Constable Peter Reed, of Wanaka, said Mr Weissange's cellphone, email, Skype, Facebook and New Zealand and German bank accounts had not been used since he went missing.
Police were satisfied there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident. The coroner found Mr Weissange had drowned after succumbing to the cold and because he failed to wear a life jacket.
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