Life altered forever following horrific incident at Kaiapoi’s Aqualand

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Oct 22, 2023 |

UPDATED: at 10:20 with response by Aqualand.

What was meant to be a day of fun at Aqualand Water Park in Kaiapoi took a tragic turn for 26-year-old Monique Gray.

Following the incident, Monique sustained injuries that significantly impacted her year.

Aqualand Water Park said they had deep sympathy for Monique’s situation, but said it was a freak accident.

Describing the day, Monique said, “on January 3rd, 2023, I arrived at Aqualand Kaiapoi with friends, anticipating laughter and fun. Instead, an ambulance ride and emergency pain relief, known as the green whistle, became the day’s highlight.”

Moments after the incident / Photo: Supplied

The incident occurred when Monique, following the guidance of Aqualand staff, slid feet-first from the ‘Apex’ feature. The slide required a water depth of at least 1.66 metre for safety she said.

“I slowly slid off the feature feet first (as advised to do by Aqualand staff) and hit the ground straight away, that is when I heard and felt the pop.

Photo: supplied

“I honestly thought I was going to pass out and I couldn’t move.

“Once I was rescued, I was lying down and waiting for the paramedics to arrive when I had a very interesting conversation with a staff member who admitted “we’ve all definitely noticed a drop in the water levels” after I had said there was no way the water levels were 1.7-2m like we had been told in the safety briefing. 

To Monique’s horror, she said actual depth was approximately just 1 metre.

The moment of impact that changed Monique’s life

“The paramedics tried to relocate what was thought to be my patella (kneecap) at the time and there was also concern that I had broken my femur (thighbone).

“Upon further investigation it was confirmed that it was not my patella that had been dislocated, it was my tibia (shinbone).

“Due to the impact from Aqualand’s insufficient water levels, my femur drove through my tibia, causing it to dislocate and stick out the side of my knee.

“Due to the impact, my femur broke my tibia plateau, creating a hole the size of a thumb. To put it into perspective, a tibia plateau fracture is often caused by car crashes or high impact injuries/serious impact.”

Detailing the aftermath, Monique said she underwent invasive surgery involving two plates, eleven screws, and bone grafts.

“I spent 152 days confined to bed, with the same number on crutches or in a wheelchair.

“Another 182 days were in a brace. My second surgery was on September 25th, to remove problematic hardware meant starting my recovery all over again.”

Photo: Supplied

A meeting months after the incident between Monique and Aqualand’s director, revealed more unsettling information Monique said.

On the day of Monique’s incident, the director informed her that the “daily safety checks” were not conducted.

However, Aqualand NZ Director Jason Mill rejected this accusation, saying that his colleague did not make this statement to Monique.

“Daily safety checks are done everyday and at the end of each session. There is also a full safety briefing before each session enters the water.”

He said a full water rescue had to take place because of the depth of the water.

Staff, some who were former nurses, were shocked by the situation, but everything was done by the books to ensure safety was top priority he said.

Monique’s active lifestyle of surfing, hiking, and being outdoors has been halted indefinitely.

Recounting the toll it took on her, she shares, “by Aqualand Kaiapoi’s negligence, my entire 2023 has been impacted, and likely much of 2024 too.

“From an active 26-year-old, I turned into someone who had to relearn walking, needed help with basic tasks, and grappled with intense physical pain and emotional trauma.”

Monique before the accident. Photo: Supplied

“I’ve been through a lot in life and this is by far the hardest thing I have ever gone through.

“Both physically and mentally. The pain was indescribable. I never thought I’d be 26 and have my first steps celebrated twice.

“I have to send my dog to daycare most days because I can’t look after him which has been one of the hardest parts of this. Not being able to run around with him.

“I was also teaching him agility before my accident. I have had to be showered and bed-bathed by my mum which, I love my mum but what 26-year-old wants that?

“I try my hardest to stay positive but there are dark days, there are days where I wonder “what if I just hadn’t gone to Aqualand that day” or “what if they had conducted their daily safety checks and checked the water levels.

“I have dreams about walking and running, then I wake up and have to face reality. A lot of people may think that this is simply just a broken leg but it absolutely is not.”

Despite, Monique’s incident, Aqualand Water Park’s Facebook reviews have attracted 5 out of 5 star reviews from customers.

The park has gained a 4.7 out of 5-star rating from 68 reviews on BookMe.

Aqualand NZ responds

Aqualand NZ Director Jason Mill said the depth under the Apex is 1.66m min. As specified by the US manufacturer.

“The morning after the incident we ran a depth survey at the lowest tide point (there is a small tide fluctuation from the Kaiapoi thru the Courtenay stream tidal gates.)

“The shallowest point at the Apex was 1.72m and all other features were over operating depth.

“If the depths hadn’t been adequate the park wouldn’t have opened.

“AQNZ have the same high levels for water quality and have closed the park on occasions after storm events when the water quality isn’t where it needs to be. AQNZ have undertaken an entire pond survey in the last month so we can again ensure we exceed all depths across the park.

A Worksafe spokesman said the matter has been referred to the Christchurch team to make inquiries and they were seeking more information.

Jason Mill said “we have been supplying actual data on depths and staff procedures to the Worksafe team who have processed the matter and informed us last week.

“AQNZ has taken several learnings and actions from the incident and have made adjustments to the park procedures to further enhance the user safety.

“AQNZ will be having meetings with Worksafe on site once the park is actuated to ensure we meet our procedures.

“AQNZ will continue to monitor water depths, quality, fixings and other elements outlined in the appropriate standards.

“We have already undertaken a complete lake depth survey last month so that we can position the park to meet and preferably exceed all water depth requirements.

“Our testing at the time of Monique’s accident indicated that we were meeting the Australian Standard – no issue with water depth was identified.

“Dealing with injuries is the hardest part of our team’s job and we fully sympathise with the small number of injuries we’ve had at AQNZ.

“We have been sympathetic of Monique’s situation and have met with her to understand her difficulties.

We have just been awarded first runner-up in the North Canterbury Business awards for emerging businesses, reflecting the great work Mark and his team have delivered.”

UPDATED: at 10:20 with response by Aqualand

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

Have you got a news tip? Get in touch here

got a news tip?