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Coroner lauds safety steps taken by council

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Tue, 23 Aug 2022, 11:50am
Surf life-savers, the Otago Regional Rescue helicopter crew and police on the clifftop take part in the search at Second Beach. Photo / ODT
Surf life-savers, the Otago Regional Rescue helicopter crew and police on the clifftop take part in the search at Second Beach. Photo / ODT

Coroner lauds safety steps taken by council

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Tue, 23 Aug 2022, 11:50am

The Dunedin City Council has taken reasonable and welcome steps to improve safety after the drowning of Dunedin teenager Vincent Beecroft at Second Beach in 2020, a coroner says.

Vincent was one of three friends who, on January 23 of that year, jumped from a rock face into the water.

While climbing back up he slipped and fell back into the sea, from where he was unable to be rescued.

Coroner Heather McKenzie found that when Vincent toppled he almost certainly hit the rocks, and that his death was from blunt force trauma consistent with a fall.

"I understand and acknowledge that Mr Beecroft's death has been traumatic for his two friends who were with him," the coroner said in her findings, which were released yesterday.

"I also acknowledge their attempts to rescue Mr Beecroft and their quick call to emergency services."

One of those friends was able to grab hold of Vincent at one point, but could not bring him to shore because of the swell and seaweed.

"I climbed down to the bottom rocks and back to the water to try save him," the friend told police.

"I tried to pull him to the flat rocks near the cave ... There was heaps of seaweed and the swell was big; the water was rising and falling heaps.

"I grabbed hold of him and tried to pull him in [but] he kept getting pulled out — I couldn't hold him."

Vincent's body was recovered three days later.

Tests showed Vincent had cannabis and low levels of alcohol in his system, but the coroner said there was no evidence as to how those substances might have affected him.

"I am satisfied that Mr Beecroft died an accidental death following slipping while climbing back up rocks at Second Beach and falling into the sea."

As part of the inquest, Ms McKenzie consulted both the Dunedin City Council and Otago Coastal Search and Rescue about putting up signs and/or fences at Second Beach and other possible safety measures.

The DCC replied that it and Search and Rescue had already discussed the possibility of putting warning signs at sites identified as being of concern or potential risk, and it planned to put up a third warning sign on the Second Beach track.

The council said it had already fenced some beach locations, but it was not reasonably practicable to erect and maintain fencing to prevent access to all dangerous locations.

Ms McKenzie accepted that view, although she said she would encourage the option of further fencing to be explored.

"I thank the DCC for its engagement with this inquiry, and for setting out the relevant actions it has or is taking with respect to safety at Second Beach and/or other locations."

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