Four rescued from overturned 4WD in flooded river

27 April 2019
Rescue Coordination Centre NZ has overseen the dramatic rescue of four people from a four-wheel drive that overturned in the flooded Hopkins River.

The male occupants of the vehicle - two adults and two children - were driving in the river, located north of Lake Ohau in the Mackenzie area, when the accident occurred this morning. They were able to climb out of their vehicle that had rolled onto its side and perch on top.

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ received the group’s distress beacon alert at 9 am. They coordinated with the Helicopter Line to get members of the Aoraki Mt Cook Department of Conservation Search and Rescue Team to the scene. RCCNZ also sent the Otago Rescue Helicopter to assist.

Jono Gillan, Aoraki Department of Conservation Search and Rescue Team leader, said with heavy rain falling, the team used a rope system to reach the people stranded on the vehicle.

The helicopter was able to hover to pick the people up. The four were cold and wet and had been on top of the vehicle for two hours before the rescuers arrived on the scene at 11.10 am, Gillan said. It took 45 minutes to get them all into the helicopter.

The four - who were uninjured - were taken to a nearby hut, where they were picked up by the Otago Rescue Helicopter and taken to Mosgiel. They’d recovered sufficiently to be able to go home.

Helicopter hovering over 4wd
Aoraki Mt Cook DOC team ©2019
The helicopter was able to hover to pick the people up

“Undoubtedly, the rescuers saved four lives today,” Senior Search and Rescue Officer Tracy Brickles said.

“We ask people heading outdoors this weekend to make checking the forecast their first priority.”

“MetService has a severe weather warning out for Fiordland, Westland, and the Canterbury Headwaters with heavy rain forecast. There are a few swollen rivers and lakes. When the weather’s bad, extra care is needed.”

The RCCNZ team are heartened by today’s positive outcome. “As with every rescue, it’s a huge team effort,” Brickles said.

“We’d like to thank the Aoraki Mt Cook Department of Conservation Search and Rescue Team, the Helicopter Line and the Otago Rescue Helicopter for the professionalism and skill they’ve demonstrated today.”

“Today’s rescue reinforces what we already know: distress beacons save lives. They’re not just for trampers, hunters or boaties - distress beacons can be lifesavers for anyone who’s heading into a remote location.”

“As the saying goes, ‘if you can’t call for help, we can’t rescue you’.”

Notes to editors

High resolution photos of this rescue are available. Please contact the media line for copies.

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