Snowboarder ran for help after fatal fall

TRAGEDY: Tim Stone slipped about 100 metres down an icy slope and into a stony riverbed.
TRAGEDY: Tim Stone slipped about 100 metres down an icy slope and into a stony riverbed.

An Australian snowboarder ran for more than an hour in snow after his friend plunged down a slope on the Mt Cheeseman skifield.

Tim Stone, 29, died after he slipped about 100 metres down an icy slope and into a stony riverbed in the Tarn Basin on August 5 last year.

Coroner Richard McElrea said the death highlighted the need to promote awareness of how dangerous back-country boarding could be.

He said in his report, released today, that Stone died because of ''high-energy impact injuries to head, chest, neck and limbs''.

The Sydney security technician was with friends on holiday at Mt Cheeseman.

On the day he died, Stone and two friends, Tod Mason and Nathanael Jamieson, went snowboarding on an unpatrolled section at the top of the skifield.

The group had to traverse out of the basin to get back to the road.

None of the group had knowledge on how to traverse the basin, so Mason asked advice from a Mt Cheeseman ski instructor.

''From the way it was explained, it sounded like a simple hike and we didn't really expect to be walking for long,'' he said.

However, the group soon ran into trouble.

Stone, who was at the front, took off his board and attempted to walk across a slope when he slipped down a 45-degree slope and into the stream. 

Mason earlier told The Press how Stone slipped down a steep slope and took off  ''unbelievably quickly'', landing in a creek.

Mason and Jamieson rushed down the slope to lift Stone from the river.

''Tim was still breathing, but it was a disturbing, gurgling sound. His face around the eyes was massively swollen and his skull was smashed in on the right side,''' Mason said.

Stone had suffered severe head injuries, as well as a fractured arm, rib and legs, lung contusions and a laceration to the liver. 

He had not been wearing a helmet, which the coroner said would have ''substantially reduced'' the head injuries.

Mason quickly went for assistance, running for over 90 minutes to raise the alarm, while Jamieson stayed with his friend.

When Mason  found help after 3.5 kilometres, Stone was airlifted to Christchurch Hospital.

He had ''a non-survivable head injury'' but life support was continued until his parents arrived from Australia to be by his side.

Stone had been snowboarding for over 12 years but was not experienced in back-country terrain and had limited knowledge of Mt Cheeseman.

In his report, the coroner said the death highlighted the need to further promote the dangers of back-country riding.

''I recommend the New Zealand Ski Instructors Alliance promotes awareness of snowboard limitations in back-country use and in steep terrain with firm snow conditions as highlighted by this fatality,'' he said.

New Zealand Mountain Safety Council Andrew Hobman said snowboarders could go on much less favourable snow conditions than skiers so ''tend to push the boundaries a little bit more''.

''Snowboarding in general allows people to get a lot further from the ski area at an earlier stage in their snowboarding career than skiers would venture, and thus we tend to find people less experienced in the back country on snowboards are getting themselves into trouble,'' he said.

The coroner recommended Mt Cheeseman provide more information about the status of the Tarn Basin and provide markers to assist skiers and snowboarders in exiting the basin.

He commended the actions of Mason in going for help and Jamieson in staying with Stone and ''offering him such warmth, comfort and support as he could in such dire circumstances''.

The Press