Moun­tain tragedy claims hero

Ruapehu Press - - Your Local News - DAVID BUR­ROUGHS

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.

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