Mountain tragedy claims hero
An adventurer who died after falling into crater lake on Mt Ruapehu was hailed a hero after saving a young girl from drowning 16 years ago.
Friends have paid tribute to Richard Ebbett, 39, who went missing on Friday afternoon after heading to the Whakapapa ski field.
Due to bad weather at the time, police were unable to begin searching until Saturday morning when ground teams and helicopters were used to scour the mountain.
Ebbett’s family members joined the search party, and after a short search his body was located in the Mount Ruapehu Crater Lake.
Police said it appeared he had slipped and fallen into the lake and his death has been referred to the coroner.
‘‘It is an absolute tragedy for this man’s family,’’ Senior Sergeant Grant Alabaster said.
Friend Nick Enstrom said he had known Ebbett through motocross (MX) and described him as knowledgeable and helpful.
‘‘We couldn’t have lost a nicer, more helpful guy,’’ he said.
‘‘Our MX community will have a huge missing piece.’’
Ebbett attended Palmerston North Boys’ High School, and owned the Moto SR Motorcycle Dealership in Ta¯ upo.
In 2001, Ebbett was credited with saved a young girl from drowning while travelling home from a motocross event in Kawhia.
The driver, George Philip Tooman, 48, was killed instantly while the trailer trapped two of the children, and an 18-month-old girl was thrown face-down into a drain.
Ebbett freed the two trapped children, then spotted the youngest in the ditch and pulled her out. Police said the toddler would have died without his quick action.
A friend of Ebbetts, who asked to remain anonymous, said it seemed likely he had fallen in to the crater lake after removing his skis to access a popular viewing point.
‘‘There is a very prominent ice layer beneath the snow - I suspect from recent rain - and it is possible he may have lost footing in ski boots and ended up on the crater lake,’’ the friend said.
‘‘I was near the scene about the time they were planning the recovery but was having difficulty myself.’’
A female was arrested for failing to appear in court. Police attended three domestic incidents.
September 26; Police assisted with the issuing of an eviction notice and provided traffic control while a large tree was cleared from SH4.
September 27; A male was detained until he had sobered up. Afterwards he was referred to mental health. Police responded to the theft of items from a local dairy.
September 28; Two people were arrested in separate incidents and taken to court for court breaches. Police attended two domestic incidents.
September 29; An argument between flatmates over a cat required a police visit. A vehicle crashed south of Hiwi Hill. A female who failed to appear at court was arrested. Police served two protection orders.
September 30; A nonsuspicious death was attended. Spouting and minor damage to a roof was reported after a truck hit a veranda on Manuaute St. A gunshot was heard and a male was seen running from a paddock.
October 1; A vehicle crashed on SH41, police issued a ticket for dangerous overtaking and a drink driver was apprehended. In two separate incidents stock were reported to be on rural roads.
Taumarunui Police can be contacted on (07)8958119 or anonymously via Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.
‘‘We couldn't have lost a nicer, more helpful guy.’’ Nick Enstrom
The crater lake on Mt Ruapehu, where Richard Ebbett died.