PM tells of attempt to save guide's life

The Press | Friday, 15 August 2008

GOTTLIEB BRAUN-ELWERT: The former nuclear
physicist had been a professional mountain guide
for more than 30 years. More photos...

A devastated Prime Minister Helen Clark today told how she and others yesterday battled in vain to save the life of her close friend and mountain guide Gottlieb Braun-Elwert.

"It's just a terrible thing to see one of your old friends pass away," Miss Clark told reporters at Tekapo's Church of the Good Shepherd.

"It was very harrowing but everybody rose to the occasion and we just threw everything we could at trying to help and trying to get support in."

She said the ski party at the backcountry hut owned by Mr Braun-Elwert near Lake Tekapo kept up CPR on him for 2½ hours - to no avail.

"Gottlieb was one of the most incredible people I have ever seen. I have had so many beaut trips with him," Miss Clark said, adding that over the years she had also got to know his wife Anne and family very well.

Miss Clark said the party - including her husband Peter Davis and Cabinet Ministers Damien O'Connor and David Parker - had had two beautiful days' skiing in the Two Thumbs range.

"And we got to the hut door and two people went inside the hut and Gottlieb came back out of the hut and collapsed on the snow," she said.

Mrs Braun-Elwert praised the Prime Minister and her party for their "fantastic" efforts to try and resuscitate her husband including performing CPR for more than two hours.

She said it remained unclear why her husband died, though it was believed to be a heart attack - "the last thing" she would have expected given this fitness.

"We don't really know what the real cause is. We are just guessing it's a heart attack. He's such a fit, strong man, it's the last thing I thought would have taken him."

Miss Clark left the remote mountain hut late last night by snowmobile and four-wheel drive so she could spend time with Mrs Braun-Elwert, whose husband's body was flown by helicopter to Tekapo this morning.

"She made a special effort to come out in the dark last night. (It was) probably a bit scary coming down the mountain in the snow, partially on a skidoo," Mrs Braun-Elwert said on Radio New Zealand.

"So she made a special effort to get back."

She said Miss Clark was such a regular client of her husband they referred to her as their "pet client".

St John ambulance service yesterday said it received a call from Mt Gerald at 3.53pm.

Mr Braun-Elwert ran his own business, Alpine Recreation, at Lake Tekapo.

He had guided Miss Clark and Professor Davis more than a dozen times, on either cross-country skiing or climbing expeditions in New Zealand, South America and other countries.

In 2004, he took Miss Clark and Dr Davis on a four-day ski touring trip.

Miss Clark had to abandon a summit bid on Aconcagua in the Andes, with Mr Braun-Elwert in 2001, because of bad weather and a fellow climber's illness.

They had crossed New Zealand's highest guided pass, the 2105m Ball Pass on the Mount Cook Range, together the previous year, and later climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak.



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