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World-renowned The Lord of the Rings sound editor Michael Alexander Hopkins drowned at the age of 53 in a rafting accident in the Waiohine River on New Zealand’s North Island on Sunday, December 30.
Most well-known for his multiple Oscars for sound editing on the monumental trilogy The Lord of the Rings and King Kong, Hopkins was rafting with his wife and another man this past Sunday in New Zealand when tragedy struck. According to Deadline, a flash flood raised the river almost ten feet, causing Hopkin’s inflatable raft to overturn and to throw him overboard into a strong current. Although he drowned, his wife was found in a state of shock 12 kilometers down the river and rescued.
Bruce Slater, an experienced 64-year-old boater who launched the Hopkins from port, told The New Zealand Herald that the group was “so unlucky” and considered it a case of bad timing. Although they had the necessary safety equipment like life jackets and helmets, they were rafting down the river just as the flood occurred. If they had left even half an hour earlier, the situation may have been avoided.
Sir Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings told The New Zealand Herald that he was “deeply shocked and saddened” to hear of Hopkins’ passing, and that any crew member or actor who was “lucky enough to work with him would miss him deeply."