A Coroner has reiterated Water Safety New Zealand advice to never turn your back on the sea as the deaths of two men rock fishing is ruled as presumed drowning.
Hendrix Kamo, 28 of Riversdale, and Shaun Orchard, 23 of Tapanui, were fishing at Black Point on the south Catlins coast on January 27, 2019 when their shouts alerted other people in their group that they were in the sea.
Deputy chief Coroner Anna Tutton ruled the men died of presumed drowning.
In the report, Tutton says Kamo and Orchard were not wearing life jackets and did not have access to flotation devices.
They had gone with friends and family to Black Point, about two kilometres south of the Slope Point Lighthouse, Tutton says.
Kamo and Orchard left their group and went to fish on the rocks, out of sight of those in their group, the coroner says.
About 20 minutes later their shouting alerted others in the group that they were in trouble. Kamo and Orchard were seen in the water travelling further out and to the east, Tutton says.
Although a search was conducted, they were not found.
In the report, Tutton endorses Water Safety New Zealand’s information about safety while rock fishing.
That information includes wearing a life jacket, paying particular attention to the swell and tide and never fishing in exposed areas during rough or large seas.
Someone rock fishing should also spend at least 10 minutes observing the sea conditions before approaching the rock ledge, “never turn your back on the sea”, pay attention to warning signs and “never fish from wet rocks where waves and spray have obviously been sweeping over them”, it says in the report.
Kamo and Orchard’s deaths are a tragic reminder of the importance of this advice, Tutton says.
An analysis of past fatalities in the area of the southern Catlins coast showed that there had been a low percentage of recoveries, Tutton says, mainly due to the sea and current conditions combined with the geography in this area of the south coast.
Paul Brand, a relative of Southland District Councillor Julie Keast, lost his life at Slope Point in 1989.
Keast has spent years researching and contacting the families of people who have died while fishing at Slope Point and plans to erect a memorial for them this year.
There had been seven deaths dating back to 1919, Keast said.
“They’ve all been missing presumed drowned.”
The Slope Point coastline was always volatile, she said.
“Wind, land and sea coming together can create all sorts of issues for people if you’re not aware. Actually even if you are aware you can be caught out by the sea.”
The marine search for Kamo and Orchard continued for four days, and then was scaled back because of bad weather.
Residents of Slope Point and nearby areas provided accommodation to the families for weeks afterwards as they continued to search.