A Balclutha man whose disappearance sparked a search in the
Clutha River and along its banks near the South Otago town
drowned after falling into the river, a coroner has found.
Michael John Dippie (55) was last seen alive on the evening
of October 29 last year. Mr Dippie was reported missing on
October 30, 2011, after he failed to turn up for work.
Police spent several days searching Balclutha and in the
Clutha River and along its banks.
His body was found partially submerged in the Matau branch of
the river between Balclutha and Kaitangata on November 16.
In his written findings released this week, Otago-Southland
Coroner David Crerar could not rule out the possibility Mr
Dippie's death was self-inflicted.
"A suicide is a possibility, indeed even a probability, but
while alternatives such as Michael Dippie falling into the
river by accident exist, I must consider such alternatives
"there is every likelihood that Michael Dippie was so
sufficiently affected by alcohol that his balance was
compromised and his decision-making capacity could have
The possibility Mr Dippie fell into the water from the
riverbank could not be excluded, Mr Crerar said.
Tests detected alcohol in his system, but no trace of any
The ability for a pathologist to determine the exact cause of
death was compromised by the length of time Mr Dippie's body
was in the river, and the coroner found the cause was
Mr Crerar found Mr Dippie died in the Clutha River on or
about October 29 to 30, 2011, due to drowning. While
adversely affected by alcohol, Mr Dippie entered the river
either accidentally or deliberately and was swept away in the
strong current before becoming lodged against a tree branch.