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Windsurfing death a tragic accident

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/queenstown-lakes/21193/windsurfing-death-a-039...
"The exact mechanics" resulting in the death of a Queenstown woman in February were "always going to be a mystery", coroner David Crerar said during an inquest in Queenstown yesterday. Judith Kaye Green (51), an office worker, was found on the beach at Woolshed Bay, near the Jardine farm on the Kingston road section of State Highway 6, on February 16.

During yesterday's inquest, a statement from Robert Buxton - who was first on the scene - was read by Senior Constable Chris Blackford, of Queenstown.

Mr Buxton said he arrived at the area frequently used by windsurfers about 6.30pm and noticed Ms Green's car.

Her board bag was lying beside her car, but she was nowhere to be seen.

He walked down to the beach to check the wind and still did not see her.

Mr Buxton looked for her about four times over 20 minutes while rigging his board and suspected something might have been wrong because he should have been able to spot her from his position on the beach.

After completing two "runs", he noticed a windsurfer on the beach close to the Jardines' house.

When he was 10m out from shore he realised the windsurfer was Ms Green and it was "a serious situation".

"At this stage I could only see the back of her wetsuit.

"When I reached the shore I went over and turned Jude over. I presumed that she was dead."

After going to the Jardines' house and asking for the police to be called, Mr Buxton returned to Ms Green, put her on her back and noticed blood on her nose.

Although Ms Green was still wearing her harness, her helmet was in the water and some of its padding was on the beach, he said.

The sailing board was on the beach, undamaged and fully rigged.

"The area where I found Jude is not a good place to be for sail boarders.

"I have been washed up on that beach in the past. It's a place you don't want to be."

Peter McInally, an experienced windsurfer, said he had been windsurfing that day about 5km south of Woolshed Bay and noticed whitecaps in the area where Ms Green would have been.

He was confident Ms Green would have been capable of sailing her board in those conditions.

Mr McInally said there were many possible scenarios which might have contributed to Ms Green's death - the most likely being she had been "catapulted".

He said the board might have stopped suddenly, but the momentum could have carried her forward before she was hit across the face with either the boom or the mast, made from lightweight material, but on impact being like a "steel bar".

Mr McInally confirmed Ms Green was a healthy, active woman whose equipment was in good condition.

She went further than most windsurfers, always wearing a life vest and helmet - "less than 50%" of other windsurfers took those precautions, he said.

Mr Crerar apologised to Ms Green's sisters and extended family for not being able to give them a definitive explanation of what happened.

The autopsy report concluded Ms Green died as a result of asphyxia from drowning, but elaborated further in relation to the bruising and abrasions under her right eye and on her nose.

"Professor [Han-Seung] Yoon speculated that those injuries were sufficient to cause a lapse of consciousness, perhaps even momentarily, but that would have facilitated drowning.

"Jude was on her own.

"I don't . . . see any great problem with that . . . she was in the best place to windsurf alone [and] I think none the less of Jude for [being] on her own.

"I'm not going to make any recommendations . . . it's a choice that she made.

"She was an experienced windsurfer, very fit and totally capable of being where she was and doing what she was at the time.

"She took more precautions than did most windsurfers . . . it's a tragic accident.

"I'm just [afraid] that these things sometimes happen in our lives.

The only way we can be totally safe is to sit ourselves in front of the television all the time and I don't think that was Jude's scene."

reprinted from http://www.odt.co.nz/news/queenstown-lakes/21193/windsurfing-death-a-039...

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