• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

Joe Nawalaneic told a group member Janet Nye’s death was ‘her own fault’, but he’s being criticised for failing to act quick enough on an Indian trek.

Apr 29, 2021

Five members of the 12-strong New Zealand group on the Indian trek where Wellington woman Janet Jan Nye later died of altitude sickness abandoned the original itinerary part-way through, an inquest has been told.
Nye, 68, died while on a trip led by experienced New Zealand mountaineer Joe Nawalaniec and organised by the now-defunct Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) Travel Club to Ladakh on October 6, 2018.
Trip participant Tracey Skidmore described Nawalaniec as a possum in the headlights when faced with Nyes ailing condition, and that she couldnt understand his unwillingness to get Nye off the mountain the day before her death.
Trip leader Joe Nawalaniec has extensive experience in mountaineering (File photo).
After missing the window to get Nye down before nightfall, Skidmore became so worried about Nyes state of health the following morning, she went behind Joes back and rallied local guide Ali to help get her down.
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Nye had only travelled about 400 metres from the campsite on horseback before slipping into unconsciousness. A marathon five or six hours of resuscitation ensued, while Nawalaniec fast-walked to get a helicopter.
Coroner Peter Ryan on day one of the inquest into Janet Nyes death in India in 2018.
But with rigor mortis setting in and Nyes lips sporting a blue tinge, CPR efforts were eventually stopped.
Skidmore felt that when a participant became severely unwell, the responsibility for making important decisions sat with the group leader.
A strong contributing factor [in Nyes death] was that a leader was not available to get Jan down, Skidmore said.
It is uncommon for an overseas death to be scrutinised by New Zealand authorities, but after Nyes family flagged concerns with our Coronial Services Unit and Ministry of Justice, Coroner Peter Ryan was assigned to investigate.
When recounting his version of events, day twos opening witness, Christchurch trekker Roger Young, said Nawalaniec addressed the remaining group members at a dinner just hours after Nyes passing.
He did not once mention Jans name, acknowledge her passing, nor mention the circumstances of her death, Young said.
Days later, Nawalaniec was asked by a group member, how the fatality occurred.
Joe replied that it was Jans fault. She made some bad decisions and they cost her her life. His response distressed us terribly, Young said.
Nyes husband Robert Joiner, who wasnt in India, said while his wife of 34 years could be stubborn, she wouldve heeded the advice of a trip leader had they said it was too unsafe for her to continue.
However, Joiner was adamant Nye, who had significant tramping experience, was up to the rigours of the trip and had no previous experience of altitude sickness, or High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema or HAPE.
The Indian region of Ladakh, where the ill-fated New Zealand trekking trip visited. (File photo)
Nawalaniec disputed this, saying several trip photographs showed Nye being carried by animals.
The thing was we signed up for was a trek, we didnt sign up for a pony ride, Nawalaniec said.
Young said days before Nyes death, group members held a meeting initially without Nawalaniec to express concerns about the poor weather, short acclimatisation period, adverse reactions to altitude, and Nawalaniecs leadership.
Young, among several showing altitude sickness symptoms, said he didnt have confidence his health would be adequately managed if he continued with the original itinerary, disagreed with the aggressive approach to altitude and was unhappy with a lack of cohesive leadership between Nawalaniec and Haya Himalaya guide Ali.
Mountaineer Joe Nawalaniec led the Federated Mountain Club Travel Clubs trip to India where Janet Nye lost her life in 2018. (File photo)
As a result five members of the group, including Young and wife Kaye, chose not to continue with the original itinerary and Nawalaniec was notified.
The rest of the group, including Nye, was then presented with a revised itinerary.
Kaye Young told the inquest she asked Nye if she wanted to accompany them, but was told that the itinerary was a personal challenge and she didnt want to give up.
Kaye Young said while she wanted to continue with the second treks itinerary, her husbands illness, being perpetually cold and her disapproval of Nawalaniecs leadership were among the deciding factors.
I felt like he was a bit of a bully, she said.
Nawaleniec was due to give testimony on Friday, the inquests final day.