CANYONING 31 December 2006 - Fatality, Kanangra Walls, Blue Mountains NSW.

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Lucas Trihey

Jan 11, 2007, 1:48:26 AM1/11/07
to Australian Accident Register
CANYONING 31 December 2006 - Fatality, Kanangra Walls, Blue Mountains

Close to midnight on Sunday 31/12/06 a 31 year old NSW Central Coast
man slipped on wet rock above Kanangra Walls and fell over a 70m cliff
and was killed. The man was in a party of three canyoners returning to
Kanangra Walls car park after completing Danae Brook canyon.

The group had planned a single day trip for Saturday through Danae but
a slower than expected approach to the canyon, some rope tangles, and
bad weather during the descent found them still in the canyon late in
the afternoon. At around 5pm on Saturday they were in the boulder choke
section of the canyon when heavy rain and hail fell. This led to a
rapid rise in water level that caused them to abseil around some
sections that can normally be scrambled. As a result of the conditions,
falling rocks (loosened by the heavy rain) and their slow progress they
decided to stop for the night in a small cave under a boulder. The
group had some basic overnight gear but they spent a cold and wet night
in this spot and reportedly shivered all night.

The following morning (Sunday 31/12/06) they continued down Danae Brook
below the canyon section. They went past the Kanangra Creek junction,
which they did not recognise, and consequently they missed the usual
exit route up to Kilpatrick Causeway (directly opposite the
Danae/Kanangra junction). Continuing further downstream (in Kanangra
Creek now) they realised they had gone too far and headed up a ridge
onto Mt Berry, arriving on top about 6pm, where they joined the main
walking track back to the car park. It rained again in the afternoon
soaking their dry clothes and leaving them wet and cold.

By this time it was dark and they were walking with head-torches. While
trying to follow the walking track between Brennan Top and Seymour Top
they were finding it hard to stay on the main track in the dark and at
one point, at about 11:17pm, they took a false lead down a side track
that finished at the cliff edge. On realising it was a false lead the
party turned around and it was here that the last walker in the group
(who had been leading the way until they turned around) slipped on the
sloping wet rock and slid two metres to the cliff edge and over the
approx 70m main cliff.

The two remaining members of the group moved away from the edge and
made a 112 phone call and were put through to Oberon Police who sent a
team of police, SES and ambulance SCAT paramedic officers who reached
them at approx 4am on 1/1/07. The rescue team helped the two survivors
back to the car park where they were taken to Oberon Hospital suffering
the early stages of hypothermia. The rescue team returned and located
the dead man's body at approx 8am.

The canyoner's partner, who was a member of the group, said she
thought that they should have asked for help sooner. "We were always
a team who were determined to make it on our own resources, and we were
doing that, but for one fatal mis-step. The thought of calling
emergency services to come and rescue us simply because we were
exhausted, cold and wet - but not actually lost - did not occur to me
until later."

Other comments
The man's partner said that after a torrid time in Danae Brook canyon
due to the flood conditions, slow progress, falling rocks and the cold
night out the group was tired and they were moving very slowly, making
uncharacteristic small navigational errors and were less steady on
their feet. She praised the professionalism and compassion of the
rescue services.

Editor's comments
Danae Brook canyon is a major undertaking. It involves navigation
through thick bush to reach the canyon, a total descent of 700m and an
ascent of 600m to return to the plateau. The canyon involves at least
eight abseils (under 'normal' conditions) totalling some 200m, and many
of these are tricky. The shortest round trip is about 10km and even
small and efficient teams often take full summer daylight hours to
complete the canyon. It is important to check the weather forecast
before venturing into the longer canyons such as Danae Brook.


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