Photo courtesy of Tim Nielsen/DesigningSound.Org
by Clive Young. New Zealand (January 2, 2013)—Oscar-winning sound editor Michael Hopkins drowned Sunday, December 30, in an accident while rafting in New Zealand’s North Island on the Waiohine River. He was 53.

Rafting with two women, Hopkins was thrown underwater when the trio’s inflatable raft capsized. According to senior sergeant Carolyn Watson of the Wairarapa Police, “All three were wearing life jackets, wetsuits and helmets at the time and it appears that Mr. Hopkins got into trouble after they were ejected from the raft in a fast flowing eddie.”

A woman on board managed to reach safety while the other passenger had to be rescued by a jet boat. Police soon responded with a rescue helicopter. Watson added, "Police would like to thank all those who assisted in the recovery of Mr Hopkins and the rescue of his companions, particularly the jet boat operator who came to our aid and, at considerable risk to himself, was able to rescue the female.”

With Ethan Van der Ryn, Hopkins shared the Academy Award for Sound Editing in both 2003 and 2006 for his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and King Kong, respectively. Other films on his resume included Kung Fu Panda, Transformers and Dreamgirls. He was also nominated seven times for MPSE awards.

On the blog, Tim Neilsen recalled Hopkins, writing, “When I arrived in New Zealand to work on Lord of the Rings, Mike went far and beyond to make sure that I, and all of us who came there to work on the film, felt comfortable there. He showed us around Wellington, invited us into his home. He made us feel so very welcome there. Mike clearly gave so many people in NZ their start, and so many will remain in his debt.”