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Air force comes to the rescue

An RNZAF NH90 helciopter, similar to the one used in Saturday’s rescue. PHOTO/FILE


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Two trampers stuck in winds reaching speeds of more than 100kmh were rescued at Mt Bruce on Saturday.

The pair – a Canadian man and New Zealand woman – were flown to Palmerston North hospital by a Royal New Zealand Air Force [RNZAF] helicopter for treatment for suspected hypothermia.

The alarm for the stuck duo was raised at about 9.45am on Saturday when the national rescue coordination centre [RCC] received a signal from a personal locator beacon in the area.

The beacon had been rented in Masterton.

A land-based search party was set up to comb the area and an NH90 helicopter was called from Ohakea base in Manawatu to help as the high winds and low cloud meant local helicopters could not land safely.

The NH90 crew found the duo and winched them out using a “hypothermic winch technique”.

The whole evacuation took 90 minutes.

Maritime New Zealand [MNZ] manages the RCC, which covers the country and an area of 30 million km2, from Antarctica to the Pacific islands, from its Lower Hutt base.

MNZ spokesman Vince Cholewa said that the search was made easier as the pair had the rented beacon and had made and shared a plan of their trip.

They were scheduled to return today [Monday].

“It is a very good example of how communications and being prepared is important,” Cholewa said.

Leaving a plan and letting people know where you’ll be and when with a trip plan can save time and effort if an emergency happens.

“Communications and a plan made the response a lot easier.”

The chopper used in the rescue was one of eight NH90s the New Zealand Defence Force uses in emergencies.

The fleet was used in the magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake, and Cyclone Winston in 2016.

Ron Mark, defence minister and Wairarapa list MP, praised the New Zealand Defence Force and the air force, in particular, for their role in rescues.

Mark said the crews had been trained to aid search and rescue missions in many different types of environments.

These could vary from his experience peacekeeping in the Sinai Desert, to the Solomon Islands, and to all types of New Zealand terrain.

“Operations like this emphasise the importance of the air force to be able to have secure bases from which they can operate, and support from the local community in which they are located.

“Every New Zealander knows someone who tramps and hunts, who shoots, or who walks the mountains for whatever reason.

“Whether they’re photography buffs, wildlife buffs, deer stalkers, everyone has family or knows someone who does that.

“Everyone knows someone – maybe a yachtie – who puts themselves right out at the edge of the envelope.”

He said they were an “organisation that New Zealanders could depend upon”.

“When they get into peril, when their lives are jeopardised, when everything goes wrong, it’s our women and men we deploy from the air force who they call upon.”


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