Suspected broken leg in the mountains and no way to call for help

9 March 2018

Distress beacons save lives is the lesson after the chance rescue of an injured solo tramper in Mount Aspiring National Park last night.

The man was saved from having to crawl with a suspected broken leg back to a track – in the hope of finding passers-by – only because of a beacon activated by a woman tramper nearby. The two trampers were not aware of each other.

While the man was well equipped for his journey with warm clothing and food, he had not carried his own rescue beacon with him to raise the alarm after being injured when he fell.

Meanwhile the woman was not carrying the right gear for a change of weather in the mountains, but did have a beacon. She found herself in trouble at Liverpool Hutt and became increasingly afraid she could not continue with bad weather approaching. She set off her beacon about 7:15pm, but then turned it off so the rescue helicopter was unable to pinpoint her location when they got to the general area.

Luckily for the injured man stuck near Mt Barff, the helicopter team located his torch light instead, and landed to investigate around 9pm. The man had shined it into the sky when he heard the helicopter.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, Geoff Lunt, says both trampers were very fortunate that in the end they were both rescued. The woman had turned off her beacon because, as she was uninjured, she became worried she should never have activated it.

“We urge every group, or person on their own, going in to the bush to have a registered beacon with them, and make sure their emergency contacts know about their intended route.

“By pure good luck, the one distress beacon between two people in different places saw both rescued.”

The helicopter was back at Te Anau at about 10:40pm. The injured man was transferred to Lakes District Hospital in Queenstown, and Police search and rescue personnel helped the woman to make sure she was okay and had somewhere to stay.

“You do not have to be injured to be in trouble and needing help. It is better to act sooner and call for help, than it is to leave it too late, risking injury or even death, and possibly worse weather for the rescuers.”

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