Four sudden deaths over long weekend

A family out fishing on Saturday made the chance discovery of the body of a man floating in the sea off Point Elizabeth.

Police identified the body as that of a 52-year-old fisherman from Dunedin. The death is not being treated as suspicious.

It is one of four sudden deaths around the West Coast at the weekend, all referred to the coroner.

A 69-year-old Nelson Creek resident died on Friday night, a 91-year-old woman was found dead at Hector, and a 67-year-old man died at Inchbonnie on Tuesday.

On Saturday, a group taking advantage of the settled weather set out in their boat about noon on a family adventure with the children, over the Grey River bar.

About 15 minutes later, they had pulled in just north of the Point Elizabeth Walkway for a closer look. They were enjoying the sight of a pod of about a dozen dolphins leaping about near the boat about 200m offshore, when they spotted the body of a man floating in the eddy.

‘‘There’s a lot of cool rocks out there and we were checking those out ... and enjoying the calm sunny weather,’’ a woman from the group said.

The witness said she just happened to look over the side and noticed the body. They called emergency services and stood by for about an hour watching the body drift until Kotuku Surf Rescue arrived from Rapahoe to retrieve it.

The boating party went on their way up the coast before returning later in the afternoon, when they spotted a quad bike floating in the sea off Rapahoe. It was later confirmed as belonging to the dead man.

The boatie said it was a fluke they had pulled into the area where the bike was floating.

In the circumstances, it was fortuitous as the man’s family would be at least grateful to have his body back, and it possibly saved an extended official search, the woman said.

Senior Sergeant Mark Rowbottom, of Greymouth, said how the man came to be in the sea, and where he had been, were still being investigated, but there was no evidence to suggest anything sinister in his death.

‘‘We don’t know exactly how he got in there ... there was a quad bike located that was his. He was a keen fisherman,’’ Snr Sgt Rowbottom said.

Police inquiries included whether the dead man had been living permanently in the area or not.

Meanwhile, the Ngahere Volunteer Fire Brigade and the NZCC West Coast Rescue Helicopter were dispatched early on Friday evening to tend to a 69-year-old Nelson Creek man who had suffered a medical event on Callaghans Ridge, about 20 minutes’ walk up the track from the Nelson Creek swing bridge.

Chief Fire Officer Tommy Daly said they had attempted to find a landing zone for the helicopter, which eventually winched a paramedic to the ground in poor light, about 5pm.

The patient was lifted out by the helicopter and flown to Grey Base Hospital but later died.

Mr Daly paid tribute to the ‘‘extraordinary skill’’ of the helicopter staff who in difficult circumstances were able to get their paramedic down to help at the scene.

Police were also called to a house in Hector at the weekend after a neighbour, checking, found a 91-year-old woman dead in her home.

Yesterday morning, at 11.10am, the rescue helicopter was called to Inchbonnie after a 67-year-old man suffered a medical event.

Helicopter staff including an intensive care paramedic were on the ground for about two hours trying to assist the man, who died at the scene. — Greymouth Star

- Brendon McMahon

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