Trampers rescued from Tararua Ranges

29 August 2010

Two trampers were lifted to safety on Sunday morning after spending a night out in the open in the Tararua Ranges, in a mission coordinated by Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ).

A 64-year-old Levin man and a 42-year-old woman from Feilding were tramping on the Renata Ridge Track on Saturday, approximately 20 kilometres east-southeast of Paraparaumu, when the man suffered an injury to his leg from a fall and was unable to get to shelter at nearby Elder Hut. The couple set off their personal locator beacon (PLB) and then settled down under survival blankets alongside the track to wait.

The initial beacon alert was received shortly before 11pm on Saturday night, with a satellite identifying its approximate position in the ranges an hour later.

Poor weather overnight meant the Wellington Life Flight Helicopter was unable to travel to the area until dawn, but low cloud then prevented it from being able to pinpoint the beacon’s exact location.

The helicopter returned to base and RCCNZ began putting in place arrangements for the helicopter to make a return journey with a land search and rescue (LandSAR) team, who would be dropped into the bush to search the terrain on foot. A LandSAR representative joined the officers coordinating the rescue response in RCCNZ’s operations room.

While the team was being assembled, a Palmerston North-based Helipro helicopter with directional finding equipment on board was tasked to fly over the area of the alert to determine the party’s exact position.

A break in what the pilot described as ‘challenging’ weather meant the Helipro crew were able to locate the two trampers and fly them out to Paraparaumu. They were attended to by the helicopter’s paramedic at the airport.

Search and rescue coordinator Ramon Davis said trampers having a registered personal locator beacon (PLB) meant that, in an emergency, RCCNZ could make the necessary arrangements to locate and rescue them. In this instance, the beacon was unregistered, which delayed RCCNZ knowing who was involved. Mr Davis said that all beacon owners should ensure their beacons are registered and that the details of their emergency contacts are kept up to date.

He said the deployment of two helicopters from separate locations and the rapid assembly of the LandSAR team demonstrated how quickly and effectively resources could be mobilised when required for a rescue effort.