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Rescued after 19 days

Smoke from a fire was seen by a search helicopter leading to the rescue of the two trampers. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Pair suffered minor injuries, stayed by water
Trampers without food ‘for some time’

Missing trampers, former St Matthew’s Collegiate student Jessica O’Connor and Dion Reynolds were found in Kahurangi National Park in Tasman, when smoke from a fire they lit was seen by a search helicopter – a result the police said was “a fantastic outcome”.

It’s thought the pair had been without food for some time.

Nelson Bays Area Commander Inspector Paul Borrell said the missing trampers had been through “a 19-day ordeal … and considering that they seemed reasonably well”.

The pair, both 23, went tramping in Kahurangi National Park on May 9 but failed to return when expected.

Reynolds has a strained ankle and O’Connor suffered a strained back in a fall, Radio New Zealand reported. After the fall, they stayed in that location for a few days before moving to where they could find water.

Once they found water, they stayed there until they were spotted.

At a media conference on Wednesday afternoon, Search and Rescue Sergeant Malcolm York said it was a “fantastic outcome and one we were all hoping for”.

He said the trampers got lost “fairly early on in the tramp”, due to fog, before suffering the minor injuries.

York said the pair were located in the headwaters of the Frasier stream shortly before 1pm by a search helicopter, which spotted smoke.

When picked up, they were “chatty and in good spirits”.

York said it was “pretty rare” to have such a positive outcome after such a long search.

“They did the right thing, they stayed put, and they made themselves visible, so when we got to that spot, we were able to see them.”

York told the conference he understood “they’ve been without food for some time“.

He said the pair had excellent equipment that kept them alive in cold conditions.

“They’ve done well to survive. Just the fact that after 19 days they’re in such good condition … it shows they’ve done the right thing.”

Borrell said police staff spent the afternoon with the pair, “doing a debrief process“.

“We’re absolutely ecstatic,” he said.

“As area commander of Nelson Bays I am so very very proud of our search and rescue team,” Borrell said.

Support from the community had been “absolutely fantastic“.

“With anything there is always lessons to be learned, we are very hard on ourselves as we should be,” Borrell said.

York said search and rescue staff were still out in the field and gave a “massive thanks” to searchers.

“Volunteers are the backbone of our ability to be able to go out and find people. Today we had over 50.

A St John spokeswoman said the pair only had minor injuries but an ambulance had met a helicopter to take them to Nelson Hospital.

A huge search effort for the pair included search teams aided by a dog and use of drones to create a heat map of the entire valley system.

O’Connor’s father, Mark, told Stuff the family was “absolutely over the moon”.

He and his wife, Simone, were at the search headquarters when news of their daughter’s rescue broke.

“The search team and the police have done such a fantastic job, fabulous,” Mark said.

The couple spoke to their daughter on the phone soon after her arrival at Nelson Hospital.

Simone said she never lost hope.

“I know she’s a very strong woman, very determined.”

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