Well-Prepared Tramper Death Caused by Preventable Fall, Coroner Says

13th October 2023|2 min
Media Release | For immediate release

Most incidents in New Zealand’s outdoors are preventable through effective preparation and planning, however, accidents can happen, says the NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC).  

West Coast paramedic Ian Harvey was adequately prepared for his overnight tramp into the Adam Wilderness Area on 30 January 2022. Unfortunately, Harvey fell while exploring fragile terrain a coroner’s report released today says, succumbing to the most common cause of injuries and fatalities for trampers, a fall. 

MSC was asked to provide an independent expert report for the coroner considering factors that could have caused Harvey’s death, including recommendations on preventing future fatalities.   

Harvey was a paramedic living and working in Greymouth, who had a very experienced background ranging from working in the British Army, and as an NHS paramedic in the United Kingdom before he moved to New Zealand in 2013. He worked across the South Island as a paramedic for various regional rescue helicopters. His friends and family describe him as a fit man who had completed marathons and the Coast to Coast twice. 

He was a devoted tramper, and a meticulous planner who investigated routes, studied maps and the weather, and always tramped with a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), and it was no different on his final tramp in 2022, the coroners' findings state.  

Leading up to his tramp into the Adam Wilderness Area on the West Coast on 30 January, he researched the route, spoke to people who had tramped in the area, left his intentions with his partner and updated her on his progress when in cellphone reception, and had packed a PLB.  

When Harvey arrived at the Adams Lodge early on 30 January, 2022, he sent a message to his partner with the map of the area, stating when he planned to be out. He told her to contact the authorities if she had not heard from him by 6pm the following night. During his trip, he updated her when he came into cellphone reception.  

The next morning on 31 January, Harvey climbed to the summit of Mt Adams. Photos on his camera show he was there between 8.30am and 9.50am. On his descent, he reached a large active slip, slightly off the marked route, indicated by his photos. He had spoken to a colleague about this slip in preparation for his trip.  

Harvey did not make it out of the track by 6pm that evening, and a search for him began the following morning. His body was found by Land Search and Rescue early on 1 February, about 300m below the slip.  

While Coroner Mary-Anne Borrowdale and MSC cannot identify the precise reason that Harvey deviated off track and entered the active slip area, the evidence showed that he had walked into the slip before falling from a cliff ledge.   

The coroner endorsed MSC’s recommendations for the purpose of preventing future deaths.   

MSC recommendations are for trampers and backcountry users, such as hunters, who have the skills and experience to navigate challenging terrains and unmarked routes: 

  1. If you are travelling close to or through active slips – of which Westland has many– remain a safe distance away from the edge, which is often unstable, can be undercut, and may give way without notice at any time.  
  2. If possible, search for alternative routes that do not involve you walking through such terrain, especially where a slip or loss of footing would expose you to a significant fall. 
  3. When leaving your tramping intentions with other people, be clear about the route that you intend to take, especially if planning to travel off-route; and include any potential deviations or backup routes you may take.  
  4. Carry close by you, within easy reach, a form of emergency communication which enables you to initiate a rescue response if you get into difficulties – especially when travelling solo. If you have two-way communication, keep your trusted contact informed of any deviations you make to your intentions, or any delays. 
  5. Do not attempt a descent route if you cannot clearly see the whole way down, or have not scouted it first from below, to confirm if a safe descent is possible. Once committed to a descent in terrain of this nature it can be extremely difficult to turn around. 

MSC extends its sincere condolences to Ian Harvey's family, partner, friends and colleagues. MSC commends the efforts of the West Coast Land Search and Rescue team for their work in some of the country’s most challenging terrain, and thanks both the search team and Harvey’s partner for their assistance. 


Contact MSC Communications Advisor Rebekah Wilson for anymore information. 

Header photo: Moeraki Valley Tracks. PHOTO/SUPPLIED