Zoe Woolmer cliff death: ‘Tragedy like this only a matter of time’, inquest told

British tourist Zoe Woolmer died at Kings Canyon near Alice Springs in 2014. Photo: Facebook A guide poses next to a warning sign at Kings Canyon. Photo: Facebook
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A former guide for the company that took British backpacker Zoe Woolmer to the Kings Canyon cliff where she died has told an inquest that a “tragedy like this was only a matter of time”.

Another former guide said that little or no safety training is provided for guides by many tour companies in central .

The 23-year-old tourist was on a guided excursion with The Rock Tour Company in June 2014 when her group was encouraged to climb down to a ledge and pose for a photo that would give the impression they were dangling from a cliff.

Ms Woolmer lost her balance and plunged 30 metres to her death minutes after the tour guide had demonstrated how to reach the hidden ledge at the Kestral Falls lookout “safely”, an inquest has heard.

On Wednesday, a former guide with The Rock Tour Company, Timothy Cooper told the coronial inquest in Alice Springs that the company provided training “at three or four different plant and rock formations on the Rim Walk”.

“There was no other training on that walk involved. No other safety training involved,” he said.

In an email Mr Cooper wrote to police shortly after the incident, he claimed the company was “unsafe and unprofessional” and that taking tourists down to the ledge at Kestrel Falls “was general practice”.

“I truly believed that a tragedy like this was only a matter of time,” Mr Cooper wrote in the email, which was quoted at inquest.

The Rock Tour company said Mr Cooper had left on negative terms.

Another guide, Timothy Hall, told the coroner that, in his opinion, safety training for many central n tour companies was minimal or non-existent.

He said that management at The Rock Tour Company instructed him to take photographs of tourists performing the stunt and post them to the company’s website and Facebook page.

“I was simply told that it was a requirement to bring a memory card [back from the tour] with these photos,” Mr Hall said.

He said he later decided not to take people to the ledge because it was too dangerous.

On Tuesday the inquest heard from witnesses who had seen Ms Woolmer fall and from the group’s tour guide, Rebecca Gethen.

Ms Gethen had been in the job for only six weeks and done four solo tours when the tragedy occurred.

She sobbed as she was questioned about why she had followed the company’s itinerary despite warnings at the location.

“I didn’t think,” she said. “I just wanted to get everything right that was in the itinerary and I wanted to do a good job.”

She said she didn’t see the moment that Ms Woolmer fell.

“There was a scream and it took me a moment to register what had happened. She wasn’t saying any words but she was groaning and moaning. She was looking up at me.”

Ms Woolmer suffered severe injuries, including skull fractures, bleeding to the brain, a broken back, a fractured pelvis and a fractured shoulder blade.

She was still alive when rangers reached her about 50 minutes after she fell, but she died soon afterwards.’

The coronial inquest continues. */]]>

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