Famous New Zealand mountain guide dies hiking with premier

Other News Materials 15 August 2008 06:38 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The body of Gottlieb Braun-Elwert, New Zealand's most famous mountain guide, was Friday flown down from the Southern Alps he loved, after he died suddenly while accompanying Prime Minister Helen Clark on a hiking holiday.

Braun-Elwert, 59, was believed to have suffered a heart attack in a snow-bound hut 1,280-metres up a mountain range near Lake Tekapo on Thursday.

He was guiding Clark, her husband Peter Davis and two cabinet ministers on a hiking-skiing vacation in the mountains.

He collapsed after the party returned to the hut following a day's skiing in the Two Thumbs Range.

Clark and Tourism Minister Damien O'Connor left the hut by snowmobile Thursday night to be with Braun-Elwert's wife, Anne, and their two daughters at their home in Tekapo.

The rest of the party, including Energy Minister David Parker, were flown out with the guide's body on Friday after the weather improved enough for a helicopter to land nearby.

The prime minister and her husband, both keen mountaineers and skiing enthusiasts, were regular clients of Braun-Elwert on holidays in the Southern Alps and had reportedly become close friends.

Anne Braun-Elwert told reporters, "They did a fantastic job. They tried everything they could, doing CPR for two-and-a-half hours, which is pretty harrowing."

She told Radio New Zealand that her husband was fit and active and a heart attack was "the last thing I would have imagined that Gottlieb would have died from."

The pair had been married 30 years.

Braun-Elwert migrated to New Zealand from Germany in 1978 and founded his guiding and adventure company Alpine Recreation with his New Zealander wife three years later.