Rim Walk at Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory.
Rim Walk at Kings Canyon in the Northern Territory.

Frantic attempt to save lightning victim

THE WIFE and family of a popular Adelaide DJ spent two frantic hours trying to revive him after he was fatally struck by lightning while hiking in the Northern Territory.

Antony Van Der Meer was on a dream outback holiday at Kings Canyon with his wife Jessica, mother-in-law and his sister and brother-in-law when tragedy struck about 5pm on New Year's Day.

Mr Van Der Meer was well-known among the Adelaide dance music fraternity through his former involvement with radio station Fresh FM, where he was known as "Trance".

The Advertiser has learned the 35-year old's family members performed CPR after raising the alarm, however he was pronounced dead when a team of park rangers and paramedics reached the scene more than two hours later.

Hiking tragedy ... Antony Van Der Meer. Picture: Facebook
Hiking tragedy ... Antony Van Der Meer. Picture: Facebook

After almost six years on Fresh92.7 FM, Mr Van Der Meer worked as a retail manager at Keswick software services firm Hilti Australia.

Family members who spoke to The Advertiser late on Tuesday were too overwhelmed by grief to speak publicly.

Friends and family took to social media on Tuesday to pay tribute to the "incredible, husband, son, brother, cousin and friend to us all".

One family member described Mr Van Der Meer as "the one who always brought light to our lives".

The tragedy happened as a sudden lightning storm and flash flooding enveloped the picturesque Kings Canyon region, about 300km west of Alice Springs.

The family group of five was hiking alone on the popular Rim Walk and last night were still trying to organise flights back to Adelaide to grieve with loved ones.

A spokesman for NT Police said the stormy weather conditions had slowed efforts to retrieve Mr Van Der Meer's body.

"We have since recovered the body. The other hikers were not injured, however they are suffering extreme shock," the spokesman said.

While the Rim Walk has a policy of frequently closing in hot weather conditions, no such procedure was in place during lightning storms, Central Australian Parks director Chris Day said.

The Garden of Eden at Kings Canyon.
The Garden of Eden at Kings Canyon.

 

"We'll be working with police to get as much information as possible and seeing whether there is anything we need to do differently in the future," Mr Day said.

"At the moment our main thoughts are with the family of the person involved, and with our guys just trying to make sure that they can move on from it quickly and get the support they need."

Mr Day said the weather in Central Australia was prone to sudden and severe changes and it was "not uncommon" for such flash flooding and lightning in Summer.

"They're probably not as common or as severe as the Top End but I certainly wouldn't say it's uncommon," he said.

"From what I've been told, there were two separate storm fronts coming in from different directions which converged on the George Gill Range. It sounds like it did come in quite quickly."

Mr Van Der Meer, who also served in the Australian Army between 2005 and 2011, had been planning to start a family with his wife in 2018.

He studied at Hallett Cove R-12 School in the 1990s and was a keen soccer player and field athletics school representative.

Funeral details for Mr Van Der Meer will be arranged once his wife and extended family members arrive back from the NT.

KINGS CANYON

Kings Canyon is about 300km west of Alice Springs.

It is regarded as one of Australia's most captivating outback holiday destinations.

There were thunderstorm warnings for the area put out by the Bureau of Meteorology on Monday afternoon.

 

The Garden of Eden at Kings Canyon.
The Garden of Eden at Kings Canyon.

 

A spokesman said the storms could be associated with a Cyclone Hilda, a storm which affected Broome and northern Western Australia, as the weather system was expected to move south east.

Central Australian Parks director Chris Day said it was not uncommon to get lightning storms in that area at this time of year.

"They're probably not as common or as severe as the Top End but I certainly wouldn't say it's uncommon," he said.

"From what I've been told, there were two separate storm fronts coming in from different directions which converged on the George Gill Range. It sounds like it did come in quite quickly."

Mr Day said about six of the rangers in the area came in to help when they heard the call.

"At the moment our main thoughts are with the family of the person involved, and with our guys just trying to make sure that they can move on from it quickly and get the support they need," he said.

"We'll be working with police to get as much information as possible and seeing whether there is anything we need to do differently in the future."

The Rim Walk is often closed due to hot conditions but storms are not as well catered for.

"We've got very strong policy procedures around heat related stuff, but we don't have anything that deals specifically around the storms," Mr Day said.


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