An investigation has been launched into the collapse of a Lake Waikaremoana Track bridge which sent tourists plummeting eight metres into a river.
A cable on the Hopu Ruahine bridge on the Lake Waikaremoana Track "released" about 1pm on Thursday, pitching four French tourists into the water.
Te Urewera Board chairman Tamati Kruger said that, thankfully, none of the "shaken" trampers had been seriously injured. The board had convened a response team to the incident, consisting of board members and the Department of Conservation. It had already ensured all six of the other "critical structures" on the Lake Waikaremoana track were safe. The board would investigate the fault which had caused the collapse, Mr Kruger said.
A WorkSafe NZ review as well as an independent Health and Safety review would be carried out. It should take about 10 days to complete the reviews. "The board, Tuhoe and DoC are taking the incident extremely seriously," Mr Kruger said.
"We will continue to want to know how our [French] trampers are in the days and weeks that follow. "We are planning to inform them of the investigation outcome once complete." Department of Conservation operations manager Mike Slater said the incident could have had a much more serious outcome.
"As a result, [the released cable] has upset the stability of the bridge and that's where people that were on the bridge have slipped off and fallen," Mr Slater said. "Fortunately other than some scratches and a little bit of bruising, they are not seriously injured. "That's a very fortunate outcome." The bridges were inspected by an engineer every six years and by a qualified departmental inspector every second year.
Every 12 years they undertook a full load testing, Mr Slater said. The bridge was last inspected in September last year. "An event such as this is an extremely rare occurrence and we just need to understand in this particular case exactly what did happen." Mr Slater said the bridge was now closed. The Lake Waikaremoana Track, in the Te Urewera National Park in the central North Island, is one of DoC's nine Great Walks. The tramp, which takes three to four days, follows roughly half of the lake's circumference and is a popular holiday destination.
It remains open from Onepoto Rd to Whanganui Hut and is to be walked in only one direction from Onepoto until further notice. Water-taxi pick-ups have been arranged from the Whanganui Hut at 2pm daily.
Contact Te Urewera Visitor Centre for more information.