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Remarkable survival story in Te Urewera

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Greenlea Rescue Helicopter was dispatched yesterday by the RCCNZ to an active beacon in the Urewera Ranges.

Despite the stunning blue skies in Taupo the ranges were quite different with claggy misty cloud, reduced visibility, and areas of notable turbulence.

A man was quickly spotted in a clearing near a hut, some 150 meters from the beacons initial GPS coordinate.

What from above initially looked like a man with possibly a rolled ankle, transpired to be a trouser-less boot clad man with severe hypothermia, huddling into the foetal position - and a remarkable tale of survival.

The otherwise uninjured man appears to have been in the bush for several weeks, but became trapped due to the elevated river levels (think raging torrents of brown water, and impassable rapids) Having apparently run out of food four days ago, the man was trying to make his way to safety but found himself in the position where he needed to skirt the river. At this point he was swept away downstream. Fortunately he was able to get back to dry land, but knew that to getting to the hut pictured, and safety, required crossing the river again as he was now on the wrong bank. This resulted in a second cold and terrifying trip downstream, fortuitously deposited him just upstream of the Hut. At this point - but still reluctantly, as he didn’t want to put everyone out, but in the knowledge that he is a good tax paying citizen - He activated his beacon.

Upon the helicopter landing the delighted man, who was physically unable to get to the hut pictured, and now so confused that he was unsure he was even looking at a hut, was re-dressed in dry clothing and placed in a thermal "electric" sleeping bag before being flown out to hospital with a very low body temperature.

The man would not have survived much longer, and the quickly deteoriating weather, and late afternoon conditions necessitated a rapid departure.

Despite his initial condition and obvious confusion, later in the return flight we were thanked multiple times and serenaded with a delightful song from a man that 30 minutes earlier had resigned himself to dying next to that river, twenty meters from a hut, but unable to reach it. Interestingly enough upon emerging from the murk and into the blue skies toward Taupo on our return flight, we were alerted to the wonderful views of Mt Cook and the southern alps.

Whatever he was looking at, In a way he was right…. Surely one of the most beautiful sights he had ever seen.

Immediately following this job the Greenlea helicopter was dispatched directly toward turangi. A man with a serious laceration from a pane glass was flown to Rotorua Hospital.

At the same time that we were doing our jobs, three helicopters were attending a car crash near taihape and the Tauranga helicopter was also flying, as was the Hamilton heli, while the Gisborne helicopter was grounded due weather (for most of the day).

Further to. Last friday night The Taupo Based Greenlea helicopter was co-dispatched along with the Hamilton Helicopter, to a car crash near Turangi. The Taupo helicopter arrived at the scene a full 31 minutes before the helicopter ex Hamilton. Fortunately the weather, which was fluctuating at the time, allowed the Hamilton helicopter to fairly well approach directly to the scene, however any further deterioration would have necessitated an approach via Taupo airport. This would have delayed their arrival in turangi a further 15-30 minutes, depending on if a full instrument approach was required.

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