New Zealand Jetboat flips one dead, five injured

Kawarau Jet
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The Kawarau Jet, carrying 23 people flipped over at 2.45pm local time today, after hitting a sandbar at the mouth of the Shotover and Kawarau rivers, near Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island.

The world’s first commercial jet boating operation, Kawarau Jet was set up in 1960 after two Invercargill brothers Alan and Harold Melhop made the first powered navigation of the Kawarau Falls dam in a Hamilton Jet.

Kawarau Jet company director Andrew Brinsley said 22 people, plus the driver, were on the scheduled tour. Brinsley said it was understood the woman, a Chinese tourist who died, was trapped beneath the overturned craft.

Local reports suggest that it was initially thought all the passengers were accounted for, before passengers became aware someone was missing in a frantic scene, apparently compounded by language difficulties.

'I thought maybe someone is under the boat,' one of the passengers said on TV3 tonight.

TV3 reported it heard passengers telling rescuers to have a look under the upturned jet boat, but it was about 90 minutes after the crash before a crane arrived on the scene and that allowed the boat to be lifted and the woman was found under it.

Seven passengers were taken to Queenstown's Lakes District Hospital for treatment for injuries, one was flown to Southland Hospital in Invercargill.

In December 1997, eleven people escaped major injuries when another Kawarau Jet flipped on the Shotover River.