The victim of Sunday's fatal jetboating incident on the
Makarora River, Murray (Muzza) Austin Rivers, was well-known in
the Wanaka community for his generous spirit and love of life.
Mr Rivers (65) was the owner and skipper of a jet-boat that
first got into trouble while negotiating the Wilkin River,
which flows into the Makarora River.
His body was recovered by police yesterday morning near the
mouth of the Makarora River, at the head of Lake Wanaka.
Tim Rivers said yesterday his father had been "tragically
"Murray was well-known in the community for his generous
spirit and love of life.
"The family are shocked and deeply saddened by Murray's
passing but thankful that his body was recovered so quickly."
Frustrated Queenstown harbourmaster Marty Black yesterday
said his message to boaties was "wear the damn life jacket".
"A flooded river, in a boat like that; it's just common sense
to wear bloody jackets," Mr Black told the Otago Daily
Mr Rivers and a man and woman, both aged 23, had been
jet-boating on the Wilkin River on Sunday afternoon when the
boat's engine cut out.
Wanaka police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Aaron
Nicholson said yesterday the group began pushing and paddling
the boat back to the ramp at Wharf Creek at the top of Lake
"While the jet-boat was moving through a section of fast
water on the Makarora River, it hit a small gravel bar which
threw two of the occupants (the 23-year-olds) off the boat
and into the water."
By the time they reached the bank, Mr Rivers and his boat
could not be seen. The two, one from Invercargill and one
from the Wanaka area, walked through farmland to the Makarora
village and raised the alarm.
Search and rescue teams, the Hawea marine group, Wanaka
coastguard and a helicopter with night-vision equipment were
called in about 8.30pm on Sunday.
The 5m aluminium jet-boat was found early in the search,
beached on a shallow section of river braid near the mouth of
the Makarora River. Although the search continued until 3am,
there was no sign of Mr Rivers.
His body was found when the search resumed yesterday morning,
snagged below the surface by a submerged willow tree about
150m from the jet-boat.
Sgt Nicholson said it appeared life jackets "were not worn by
any of the jet-boat occupants".
One week ago, the ODT reported a Papakaio couple's
message for whitebaiters "and anyone else in the water" to
wear a life jacket after 21-year-old Victor Boraman was swept
out to sea at the Rakaia River mouth.
Ted Boraman said he believed his son would have survived if
he had been wearing a life jacket.
The Otago Regional Council website shows 102mm of rain fell
in the Makarora area in the week to yesterday, and water
levels in the area rose sharply on Saturday.
Mr Rivers was a partner in and manager of Alpine Fencing
Wanaka Ltd, specialising in macrocarpa post-and-rail fencing.
A business partner, Marc Simmonds, said yesterday the firm
would continue to operate.