An Australian has died while heli-skiing in New Zealand

Roger Greville. Source: Facebook

A man killed in an avalanche while heli-skiing near Queenstown, New Zealand, is being remembered as a “good bugger”.

Roger Greville, 58, died after he was pulled from the snow shortly before 3pm on Monday.

Greville was a successful businessman, working for AMP Capital in New Zealand and Sydney before heading a private equity business in London, then returning to Sydney.

Former AMP colleague Murray Gribben, now chief executive of Crown Irrigation Ltd, described him as a “good bugger”.

“He was passionate about most of the things he did. He never left you wondering what he was on about.”

Greville was a keen outdoorsman, Gribben said, but only took to skiing later in life. He travelled to New Zealand two or three times a year for heli-skiing.

Roger Greville, when he was global head of AMP Henderson Private Capital in 2003.

“It came as a huge shock to me this morning … that he’d passed away.

“He was just a bloody good bugger. I don’t know what to say. It’s come as a bit of a shock to all of us, I think. Very driven, knew what he wanted. He’ll be a real loss.”

The avalanche struck at Loch Linnhe in the Hector Mountains, south of Queenstown.

Greville was the only one in his group who was buried. He was found quickly but, despite the efforts of guides and paramedics, he was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Police would spend much of Tuesday at the site trying to determine the cause of the avalanche.

Southern Lakes Heliski had suspended its operations on the mountain range while its staff helped police.

Director Julian Field said it would make a decision on whether to resume operations later on Tuesday.

Field said heli-skiing was not a dangerous activity but like any adventure activity, it carried an “inherent risk”.

The company took its responsibilities seriously. It had never had an incident like this in more than 30 years of operations.

Fellow HeliSki director Jonathan Wallis would not comment on the possible cause of the avalanche but said a further statement would be made on Tuesday afternoon.

“There’s no point speculating until we know,” he said.

A southern district police spokesman said investigators were expected to be at the site for “a fair portion” of Tuesday.

Greville’s cause of death was still unknown. An autopsy would take place on Tuesday, police said.

The matter has been referred to the coroner.

Roger Greville. Source: Facebook

Police said members of Greville’s family were expected to arrive in Queenstown on Tuesday.

The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council urged people to take a safety-first approach after Greville’s death.

Mountain Safety Council acting chief executive Nathan Watson said significant amounts of storm snow had fallen over the Southern Alps in the past week.

The avalanche danger in the Southern Lakes/Queenstown region was ‘moderate’, meaning avalanche conditions were heightened on specific terrain features, he said.

People should take care and ensure they are well prepared before heading into backcountry alpine environments,

“It is possible to trigger avalanches in these conditions, so it is important to evaluate snow conditions and make route finding decisions carefully,” Watson said.

“Human-triggered loose snow avalanches are possible on steep slopes, particularly when the sun comes out and warms the surface of the snow.”

Watson said anyone heading out into the hills during winter should check the weather and avalanche advisory forecasts before they leave.

People should always carry an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe, and know how to use them, he said.

Southern Lakes Heliski director Jonathan Wallis said on Monday the company’s operations team had received a call from one of their pilots at 2.38pm to say a group of skiers had been involved in an avalanche on the Hector Mountains.

Ten minutes later they received word the skier had been found, but he died at the scene despite rescue efforts from company guides and paramedics, Wallis said.

Wallis was unable to give details of the avalanche.

Local ski fields had fresh snow land on the weekend with 15cm of new snow falling at The Remarkables ski field on Sunday alone.

According to the Mountain Safety Council, it is the seventh fatality as a result of an avalanche since 2005.

Two French Canadian tourists were killed on the Kepler Track last month. Before that the last death was in 2013 and there were three fatalities in 2009, according to council data.

Although there were 27 avalanche events reported last year, no one was killed in any of those incidents.

For more information on current avalanche conditions in alpine areas across the country, education, and back-country resources, visit: www.avalanche.net.nz

Stuff.co.nz

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