The wife of a NSW policeman killed in an avalanche in New Zealand says he was “Captain Awesome” to her and their two children.
Nathan Deutschbein was buried after he and a companion likely triggered a small avalanche while climbing down the Eugenie Glacier at Mount Cook National Park about 1.30pm on Thursday, NZ Police say.
“We are broken and cannot imagine a world without him. He was our Captain Awesome,” the 40-year-old adventurer’s wife, Skye, posted on social media on Friday afternoon.
“I will be off social media for a time but will keep you informed of funeral details when we know more.
“Thank you for your prayers. They are the only thing keeping us right now.”
The couple had celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary in November, according to the ABC.
NSW Police offer their condolences
NSW Police said he was an off-duty leading senior constable with the Blue Mountains Police Area Command and offered support and condolences to his family.
“An off-duty NSW Police officer has died whilst mountain climbing in New Zealand,” NSW Police said in a statement released to Yahoo News on Saturday.
“The 40-year-old leading Senior Constable, who was attached to the Blue Mountains pack, was killed about 1.30pm Thursday 29 November (NZ time).
“The officer was struck by an avalanche whilst descending from Eugenie Glacier on Mount Cook.
“NSW Police have offered support and condolences to the officer’s wife and family.”
Community rallies around wife and two daughters
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Ms Deutschbein and the couple’s two daughters.
“Our hearts are utterly devastated for Skye,” the page’s administrator Shalene Roberts said.
New Zealand authorities say the climbers had turned back due to poor weather when the 20-metre wave travelled 300 metres and pushed them into a crevasse.
The second hiker, left with minor injuries, was unable to get to Mr Deutschbein in time, NZ police inspector Dave Gaskin told media.
The surviving hiker was later winched out by helicopter after setting off a locator beacon. A third member of their party had been unwell in the morning and stayed behind in a hut.
The death has been referred to a coroner.
Local media report Mr Deutschbein was an experienced mountaineer who had made regular climbing trips to New Zealand, cataloguing impressive photos of the adventures on a website.
Inspector Gaskin described the climbers as proficient and experienced.
Mountain was ‘inherently dangerous’
An advisory on Thursday morning warned of a moderate avalanche risk above 1200m, due to unstable snow and poor weather in the days prior, a Mountain Safety Council spokesman said.
“[It’s] an inherently dangerous place to go,” he told AAP.
An update later in the afternoon warned there was considerable risk from dangerous avalanche conditions in the area and said “cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making” were essential.
Rain had aggravated the risks in an already unforgiving environment, the Department of Conservation said.
“The snow at Eugenie Glacier was loose and slushy as warmer temperatures meant the snow hadn’t frozen for several nights,” said the department’s Mount Cook operations manager, Brent Swanson.
Thursday’s event was the second deadly avalanche at the national park in recent weeks.
Last month, on nearby Mount Hicks, New Zealand adventurer Jo Morgan managed to dig her way out of the snow that killed her two companions, Martin Hess and Wolfgang Maier.