The Wellington-based Westpac Rescue Helicopter flew out an injured tramper from the Otaki Gorge last night after an alert from a US rescue company.
The tramper transmitted an SOS message via a ‘SPOT’ beacon which is monitored by a private company in the USA.
The SPOT beacon transmits a signal to a different satellite than the more common ‘406’ beacons normally used by Kiwis.
The rescue mission began just before 9:30pm when the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ) notified Life Flight that an emergency signal from a “SPOT Messenger Beacon” had been picked up along the Otaki River about 15 kilometres north of Otaki Forks.
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter responded with a Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic on board.
Life Flight crewman Dave Greenberg says: “Thanks to our night vision goggles we were able to see the beam of a torch waving to us from under trees near the river bed.
“Once we located the man our paramedic was winched aproximately 150 feet down to the river bed to rescue him”
The 36 year old Palmerston North man injured his knee earlier last night and set off his beacon when he realised he would not be able to walk out. Rescue Co-ordination contacted his wife, who confirmed that he was tramping in the area.
Westpac Rescue Helicopter pilot Harry Stevenson commented: “Unlike many of the trampers we rescue, this man was well equipped and prepared.
“Once he set off his beacon he stayed in place and waved his torch, which helped us to find him quickly”.
The man’s injuries did not require hospitalisation so he was flown to a park in Levin where the helicopter was met by Levin Police who were able to drive him home.
The Life Flight Trust is a charity providing air rescue and air ambulance services. It operates the Wellington based Westpac Rescue Helicopter and a national air ambulance service.