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Hiker has lucky escape on Te Araroa Trail

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

An American hiker on the Te Araroa Trail has had a lucky escape after being swept downstream in a swollen river earlier this week.

The hiker was walking south on the Te Araroa Trail through the Red Hills on Tuesday morning, and attempted to cross the Motueka River Right Branch in heavy rain.

He was swept downstream by the rapid current, but fortunately managed to get himself out.

Stuck between two impassable rivers, the hiker realised he needed assistance and activated his personal locator beacon.

The model of locator beacon the hiker was using is also capable of sending and receiving text messages, meaning he could send a text to his local rescue service (in Texas) to say he needed help. The rescue service in Texas then informed the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ).

Due to the poor weather conditions a helicopter was not able to be deployed, and Police and LandSAR volunteers were called in to assist.

Four LandSAR volunteers hiked to the man’s location on Tuesday afternoon, but were unable to cross the river to reach him.

"The LandSAR volunteers recognised immediately that the river was too dangerous for them to cross," says Senior Constable Reuben McCormack.

"They set up camp on their side of the river, while the hiker set up camp on his side. By Wednesday morning the river level had dropped significantly and the team was able to cross to the hiker, assist him across the river, and walk him out of the park."

The successful outcome in this situation demonstrates the importance of being prepared and carrying appropriate equipment.

"Because the hiker was carrying a personal locator beacon, he was able to immediately notify authorities of his location and his need for assistance. And he was then able to set himself up in his tent and sleeping bag for the night, and wait until the river was safe to cross," says Senior Constable McCormack.

"I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the LandSAR volunteers."

"They provide an invaluable service to our communities. Without their support, the hiker may have decided to try crossing the river again, leading to a tragic outcome."

The hiker has not been put off by his experience - once he has replenished his energy and food, he is planning to continue his journey on the Te Araroa Trail.

For information about how to plan and prepare for hiking trips - whether you’re heading out for a day trip or on a multi-day adventure - go to www.mountainsafety.org.nz .

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