Aussies plunge off NZ mountain
Two Australians have fallen to their deaths during a mountain climb near Queenstown, New Zealand police say.
Australians Brett Alexander Lentfer, 62, and James Harry Spaile, 44, died after falling hundreds of metres down a cliff at The Remarkables mountain range yesterday.
It is understood the pair fell at least 300 metres when their ropes were severed on sharp rocks, stuff.co.nz reported.
One of the men's bodies was retrieved late on Wednesday and the second man's body was recovered this morning after a two-hour search.
Their deaths will be referred to the coroner.
"Our condolences are with the family and friends of both men," New Zealand Police said in a statement today.
The pair were on a guided climb of the mountain range known as The Grand Traverse, which is designed for experienced climbers. Their guide was unharmed.
Chris Prudden from the Queenstown mountain rescue team, who was first on the scene, told stuff.co.nz it appeared the men's ropes broke.
"The initial report I got was … somehow the rope was cut," he said.
"The ropes are incredibly strong but sharp rocks can do the damage really quickly. That's not surprising given the nature of the terrain."
Mr Prudden told the New Zealand Herald when he arrived at the scene he saw one person at the bottom of a hill and another person at the top.
"It was pretty sad, pretty tragic," he said. "To see the end of that situation knowing full well that they'd fallen 300 metres - it's a hell of a long way in that steep terrain."
He said unstable terrain and weak snow may have played a role in the tragedy.
"It was very warm, a little bit of cloud wafting around the peak, and the snow was very soft and could be called unstable on areas of the Grand Traverse, although it's mostly rock exposed there now. That weak snow may well have been a component," he said.
The men were climbing with the guiding company Aspiring Guides, Newshub reports.
Company director Vickie Sullivan said the tragedy had left staff "devastated".
"Our immediate concern is for the families who have lost their loved ones and to support them in any way we can," she said.
"We are also working closely with the NZ Police and NZ Mountain Guides Association to aid their investigation around the circumstances of the incident and are conducting our own internal review."
More to come.