Nicola Anne Andrews, 29, a Melbourne lighting designer and biomedical engineering student who fell to her death in New Zealand, is being remembered by friends and co-workers as an intelligent, talented maverick, and much-loved friend.
Andrews fell 300 meters at the Aoraki-Mount Cook National Park near the peak of the Footstool mountain down to the Eugene Glacier early Wednesday morning in what appears to be a tragic accident.
The Melbourne theatre is one of many mourning the loss of Nicole Andrews, including a friend and collaborator, Bryce Ives, who met Nicole while she was attending the Victorian College of the Arts in 2010, where she was studying fine arts.
“I’m heartbroken, but really feel it was a privilege and an honour to have known her,” he said.
Bryce Ives is the artistic director at the Present Tense Theatre that Nicole helped found. He described Nicole as unique in the talent, not only in art but in science.
“She was head and shoulders the most impressive lighting designer to come through the VCA in the last five to ten years,” he said. “Her design work would make the hair on your back stand up, it was that good.”
Nicole was working with renowned director Daniel Schlusser, a job not usually offered to young designers, and her “crazy hunger for knowledge” led her to study a Bachelor of Bioengineering Systems and Biochemistry at Melbourne University.
“Her knowledge went way above and beyond theatre, she was fascinated with science and big ideas,” Mr. Ives said. “I always thought she is the kind of person who will live many different lives- she’ll make a huge discovery in science and then she’ll turn around and create an amazing work of art.”
“Everything she did she was exceptional at,” said Ives.
According to Mr. Ives, one of Nicole’s latest passions was climbing mountains. Nicole grew up in Brisbane and grew to love the outdoors while there.
Director Tom Gutterridge said it was an “extraordinary” shock to hear of Nicole’s death due to her “incredible life force.”
“There was something about her capabilities because she was extremely intelligent … and creative,” he said. “As one of those people who has that rare cross over a science mind as well as a creative mind, I always thought she … was going to save the world. It’s shattering not only for her friends and family, but for the world, in a way, to lose someone like that.”
Daniel Clarke, the creative director for Theatre Works, described Nicole Andrews as a creative, clever and passionate young woman.
“We’re just so shocked and saddened,” he said. “She was such an incredibly smart woman and just so willing to learn.”
Dave Gaskin, Mid-South Canterbury area commander, said police were still investigating the accident.
“When you are climbing in at the top end of the Southern Alps every error is manifestly exaggerated and unfortunately it appears a small error has cost her,” he said. “The margins for error are so small.”
Inspector Gaskin said Nicole was still alive when a locator beacon was set off by members of a climbing party near where she fell.
A rescue helicopter was immediately sent out from Christchurch and Nicole was airlifted to the Aoraki-Mount Cook search and rescue base where she received medical attention.
Having a locator beacon gave Ms Andrews the “best chance of survival,” but “unfortunately she passed away a short time later,” Inspector Gaskin said. “The locator allowed help to get to Nicole within an hour of the accident happening, but unfortunately, her injuries were too severe.”
Inspector Gaskin said that Nicole was climbing with four other people when she fell. He said her death would be “absolutely gut-wrenching” for the rest of her party.
“I feel very sorry for them. They will be doing a lot of self-blaming at the moment, trying to understand what happened and sometimes, there is no explanation,” said Gaskin.
Weather was not to blame for Nicole’s accident. According to Inspector Gaskin, weather conditions were good and Nicole was an experienced climber and was well-equipped with climbing equipment.
“She and her group did ‘everything they possibly could’ to minimise any risk,” said Gaskin.
“The other members of the climbing party have been airlifted back to Mount Cook village and are helping police piece together what led to the accident occurring,” Inspector Gaskin said.
Andrews’ death has been referred to the coroner.
[Image via Twitter]