Drowned whitebaiter probably suffered seizure

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 14:30 04/09/2012

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A West Coast woman who drowned while whitebaiting probably suffered an epileptic seizure in the water, a coroner has found.

Adrienne Dusseldorp died on September 10 last year when she was whitebaiting alone near the mouth of the Waimangaroa River near Westport.

Dusseldorp, 49, entered the river to secure a set net for whitebaiting after the tide had turned and the river  was ''surging''.

A nearby whitebaiter saw Dusseldorp getting into the water in her underwear with her top rolled up.

''She appeared to be fiddling with her screen,'' he said.

Next time he looked she was gone, but he thought she had simply gone back to the riverbank.

Soon after he felt a ''big push'' from the water, which moved his net.

He saw ''two legs sticking up in the air from the middle of the stream'' about 20 metres away.

A group of whitebaiters pulled Dusseldorp's body to the shore and tried to resuscitate her, but she could not be revived.

Dusseldorp's partner, Stuart Smith, said they always followed safety protocol on the river, which was between 50 centimetres and 2m deep where she drowned.

''If we cannot see the far standard above the water, do not go in the water.''

He said securing the net would have been a 20-minute job for Dusseldorp and should have been completed by 6am at the latest, before the tide turned and when the river was lower.

By the time of her death, 8am, he would have expected Dusseldorp to be finished and ''sitting wrapped up in the bivvy with a brew".

An inquiry held by coroner Richard McElrea in August found that Dusseldorp died of ''probable drowning".

On probabilities, he found it was likely she suffered an epileptic seizure that resulted in her immersion in the river.

She had a history of epileptic seizure but had stopped taking medication.

''There was no evidence that having become immersed in the water she has struggled or tried to retrieve herself from it,'' the coroner said.

''It is probable that her collapse has resulted from a medical condition.'' 

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- The Press

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