Comparing accounts of accidents

I’ve only been reluctantly following the recent winter incident on the Routeburn track, where a man slipped and fell, eventually dying. His partner stayed with him in freezing temperatures for several days as he died, then made her way slowly through deep snow to the isolated Lake Mackenzie Hut. She eventually broke into the nearby warden’s hut where she waited for a further 24 days before concerned friends on Facebook triggered a search with the help of local consular staff to liaise with New Zealand Police. Wilderness Magazine summarises the accident well.

routeburn-stuff

I’m not reluctantly following because I don’t care about the accident. It’s more that I’m reluctant to follow the coverage because so much of it is awful. At times it’s seemed more fascinated with the light-hearted “survivor” trivia of a person lasting alone for a month than of recognising and respecting that one person died, and another suffered a serious traumatic event. She then had to cope with it for a month before receiving any help, and having finally been rescued was very quickly subjected to a press conference that several media outlets advertised and live-streamed, in a language she doesn’t understand, and which she really didn’t need to be at.

Stuff’s video example (see screenshot) is the one I’ve so far found most troubling to watch. I won’t bother embedding the video here, but I just hope it’s enough to note that the title image is symptomatic of the presentation that follows. To me it simply seems that the video’s makers and publishers have taken a terrible tragedy for multiple people, and dressed it up as if it’s simply a cheap reality TV entertainment show.

This isn’t to suggest that people’s responsibilities or bad decisions should be ignored. It’s fair to examine incidents and consider, for example, when people were unprepared or inadequately skilled, and probably should have known better. It should also be learned from.

This type of criticism needs to be based on actual facts, though. I’m not convinced that some of the information that’s been flowing, nor the tendency for certain news producers to foster and encourage discussion threads full of unverified, sometimes outright obviously wrong speculation, is at all helpful.

That’s my rant about annoying media coverage for now, at least. Fortunately if you’re inclined in a similar way to myself on this and fearing for your sanity, I can suggest referring to the latest issue (141) of NZ Geographic Magazine.

In its latest issue (and online!), New Zealand Geographic magazine has published a fabulous account of the late 2012 accident, in which a man disappeared in the vicinity of Mount Owen.

Naomi Arnold, the article’s author, tracked down and interviewed many witnesses. She’s constructed a detailed background for the story which carried through to the end of the ultimately unsuccessful search effort which followed.

The article itself is worth reading, but equally worth reading is yesterday’s featured interview by The Spinoff with Naomi Arnold. The Spinoff gets the author to talk about the experience of researching the accident, considering issues like the relevance of writing such an article at all, and the difficulties around impacts such things can have on friends and family who remain deeply affected by what’s being presented.

Enjoy.

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