The Tararua Range. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

Sam Tattersfield

A full-scale search and rescue effort was launched at the weekend after a boy on a school tramping trip lost sight of his group, spending a night alone in the Tararuas.

The year 10 Rathkeale College pupilt had been part of a group of 10 pupils and five adults on a Duke of Edinburgh overnight tramp between Holdsworth Campsite and Totara Flats Hut.

At about 5pm on Saturday, he lost sight of the group crossing a swing bridge and followed an old track.

When he realised he was separated from the party, and was unsure of his bearings, he set up a safe place to wait, pitching a tent for the night, in line with training he had received from the school in meetings before the day.

The meetings covered such things as the gear pupils should take, the route they would be following, and actions to take in a range of situations, including separation from the group.

A school spokesperson said it was this training that eventually led to his successful rescue.

Many people in the same situation would have panicked and tried to walk their way out in the night, potentially getting more lost.

When his absence was noticed by the group, including one parent who was a search and rescue volunteer, a ground search was launched.

The police were also notified, and a full-scale search and rescue operation began.

The pupil was located safe and well by Amalgamated Helicopters early on Sunday morning, close to where his initial disappearance was noticed.

Police said he didn’t have any injuries but was “quite cold”.

Search and rescue sergeant Tony Matheson said the boy had gone to an open area and was waving at the helicopters, having potentially seen them searching the night before.

Shortly after he was found, he was reunited with his relieved parents.

The parents and school were very pleased at the way the pupil handled the situation.

They were “very grateful” for everyone on the trip’s efforts, and the members of the SARS team.

This was echoed by Rathkeale principal Martin O’Grady who praised the efforts of the “magnificent” Police SARS.

“This was very reassuring at a most difficult time and their level of knowledge and professionalism certainly brought this issue to a speedy resolution.

“We cannot thank them enough.”

O’Grady said that a full review of the incident is being conducted by the school to ensure that any recommendations can be acted on.

The parents asked that their son not be identified.