The geotechnical community has sadly been hit by tragedy in the last few weeks, with rope access contractor Tom Arnold falling victim to a fatal rockfall incident in Fiordland on April 20. Tom was undertaking geotechnical work in the Fiordland National Park when he died. He was 40 years old.
Tom was first exposed to rope access and rockfall slope stabilisation in Christchurch’s Port Hills, following the 2011 Canterbury Earthquake sequence. He brought a healthy attitude to health and safety and positive working environment from his Franz Josef Glacier guiding days, and his field safety work in Antarctica. He was well known both in the rope access industry and within the geotechnical community – particularly in the South Island. He was closely involved with rock fall mitigation and worked on multiple projects over many parts of the Port Hills. His geotechnical rope access work took him all over New Zealand, including work in the mountainous regions of Mt Hutt, Arthurs Pass, Mt Cook National Park.
Tom became a familiar face to many of the geotechs and geologists in the South Island following the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake. His experience and skillset were highly sought after for some of the trickier jobs that came up on the slopes above State Highway One. If you needed a tricky rock blasted – you’d get Tom, if you needed someone to dangle off a long line below a helicopter to get to a hard to reach spot, you’d get Tom. Although if it was summer you may have had to wait, as summers were usually spent working with Antarctica New Zealand as a field trainer and guide. On his return to New Zealand he would have plenty of stories to tell about his escapades on the ice. Tom had a thirst for adventure, but was extremely safety conscious. He did things properly. When you were up on a cliff working with Tom, you knew you were in good hands. He was good company too, and clearly loved his work. Losing Tom is a big loss to the not only his friends and family, but to the rope access, Antarctic, and geotechnical communities. Slope stabilisation won’t be the same, or as safe, without him….