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Mt Cook Search And Rescue Operation

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

15 AUGUST 2008 - Brief aerial searches conducted in snowy conditions in the Mt Cook area this afternoon have helped to identify the location of the emergency beacon activated last night.

A fixed wing aircraft was this afternoon able to conduct a low level sweep over where the beacon was believed to have been activated, and a short weather window allowed a helicopter to approach and narrow the search area.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) launched a search and rescue operation after receiving an alert from a 121.5/243 MHz emergency beacon at 10.07pm on Thursday (14 August) which was localised to the Mt Cook area.

Inquiries by RCCNZ showed that an Australian party of six, equipped with a Personal Locator Beacon, had recorded their intention to traverse Annette Plateau from Barron Saddle to Mueller Hut.

It can not be confirmed at this stage whether the beacon was activated by this party, as other groups could be in the area without having left details of their intentions.

The older-style 121.5 beacons only give approximate positional information, and are being replaced by 406 MHz beacons in February 2009.

Heavy snow has so far prevented an aerial search of the area, and a specialist alpine search and rescue team and helicopter has been on standby at Mt Cook waiting for a break in the weather.

More than 20 people from a range of search and rescue agencies are assisting in the operation.

A helicopter was able to make an attempt about 2pm, and determined the beacon was likely to be in the Metelille Glacier area. However, the weather closed in again, and the helicopter was forced to return to Mt Cook.

Land search and rescue teams are currently unable to get in to the area due to the avalanche risk.

The weather forecast does not predict any break in the conditions until dawn tomorrow, but the search and rescue teams will remain on standby in case a window of opportunity presents itself.

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