John Reeve survived a 40m fall. Photo / Doug Sherring
A contractor who plunged 40m down the same cliff where
his uncle fell to his death has spoken of his miraculous
John Reeve, 69, was lucky to suffer only a few broken bones
after the tumble at the upper reaches of the Whanganui River.
He had gone there to pay his respects to his uncle John
Dicker who disappeared from the same spot 72 years earlier.
Unlike his uncle, who was never found, Reeve lived to tell
his story from his West Harbour home yesterday. "I've just
got a couple of breaks in the lower back," he said. "They
heal themselves, so it's not serious, just sore."
Reeve had taken his daughter Angela and sister Beverley to
visit the memorial to his late uncle, who disappeared at
Tangahoe in September 1941.
"He was about to leave for the war and he was drowned just
before leaving. A dog, horse and all went over the edge with
him. Nothing was ever found except a bit of bridle," Reeve
Bridge to Nowhere Lodge owner Joe Adam took the trio in his
boat and they made their way up a precarious goat track to
the memorial plaque. On the way up, Reeve lost his sunglasses
and was looking for them near the cliff edge as they
"The very bit of ground I was standing on gave way - went
straight down. And it's vertical, there's nothing to stop
He struck several rocks as he plummeted into the fast-flowing
river. "You've got clothes and boots and a jacket on -
everything. And the river was high, probably going eight
knots," he said.
Adam heard the commotion and realised what had happened.
"All I heard was a big thump as he hit the first big rock on
the way down and then another thump and then he screamed just
before he hit another rock down by the water," Adam said.
He took his boat to Reeve and tied a rope around him so he
didn't disappear in the current.
Reeve was in shock but conscious as Adam put a lifejacket
over him, then got him into the boat.
"He was bloody lucky. He went down 40m," Adam said.
The Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter took Reeve to Wanganui
Reeve's wife Carol was in Auckland when the incident occurred
and was shocked when she heard the news but said it came as
no surprise that he emerged in such good shape.
"He just seems to bounce off things."
The coincidence of falling off the cliff that claimed his
uncle's life was not lost on Reeve.
"I think with our connection there, a bit of luck was
lurking. It might have been my saviour," he said. "We have a
huge connection with that area."