It took rescue crews 24 hours to retrieve the man’s body due to the remote location. (Supplied: Queensland Fire and Emergency Service)
Authorities have described the “very arduous” conditions they battled trying to retrieve the body of a 37-year-old Sydney man who died while kayaking with friends on a remote far north Queensland river.
The experienced kayaker had been paddling with four friends from Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania on the North Johnstone river near Malanda, when his kayak became wedged in rocks in a set of rapids on Thursday afternoon.
Rescue crews were only finally able to reach the man’s body just before dark on Friday.
Police Inspector Rolf Straatemeier said the man was trapped underneath his kayak in an air pocket under surging water.
Inspector Rolf Straatemeier said the man had been stuck in an air pocket in his kayak under surging water. (ABC News: Sharnie Kim)
“We had hope yesterday [Friday] of finding him,” Inspector Straatemeier said.
“The male person we know had been alive for a number of hours because he had been calling out to his friends.
“It was a group of five friends, having a great time going down that river, and tragically it just went wrong on the day.”
Police said the man was the first of the group to travel down that section of the rapids.
The site is extremely remote and could not be accessed by road — only by river or air.
All rescue personnel and their equipment had to be winched in via helicopter and authorities had no mobile phone or radio reception in the area.
About 50 pilots, police officers, swift water rescue crews and State Emergency Service personnel were involved in the operation.
Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Assistant Commissioner John Bolger said the search and rescue was conducted in “the most arduous of circumstances”.
“They were working in very deep water, fast-moving water, basically in a jungle environment around a waterfall,” he said.
“They are highly trained and highly skilled — an amazing job, tragic outcome, but an amazing job.”
Some adventure websites have described the river as “one of the more challenging whitewater rivers Australia has to offer”.
A report will be prepared for the coroner.