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Smoke signal and beacon save trampers bacon

A personal locator beacon [PLB] and smoke signal saved the day earlier this week after a man and his grandson became lost in dense bush in Tararua Forest Park.

A spokesperson for Life Flight said that its Westpac rescue chopper was called out on a mission on Monday.

The call for help came from a man and his grandson on the second day of a tramp in the forest park when they became lost in a dense patch of bush.

“As the Westpac chopper approached the approximate GPS coordinate from the PLB, it would have been very difficult to see them through the canopy,” the spokesperson said.

“But they had made a small [safely contained] smoky fire to signal the Life Flight team, which was extremely helpful.”

Life Flight’s Westpac rescue helicopter was tasked by the Rescue Coordination Centre.

The spokesperson said that once the helicopter crew had caught sight of the smoke signal, they unloaded paramedic Serah [last name was not provided] to find the pair.

The crew managed to land the helicopter on the rocky bank of the Waiohine River as it was reasonably flat.

“There were also no branches or foliage overhanging, which could pose a threat,” the spokesperson said.

“From there, Serah walked into the bush to retrieve the pair.”

Serah said that once she found them, she guided them back to the helicopter and they all flew back to the road and landed by the trampers’ car.

“Fortunately, there were no injuries, so they could take themselves home.”

The rescued duo did not respond to requests for comment.


  1. Using a PLB makes a rescue mission so much quicker and efficient for all involved. And the smoke signal will have narrowed down their location too. Thumbs up to them for being responsible people.

  2. It’s not a walk in a park It’s a forest and like driving you have driver’s and steers. Walking through dense bush must be hard never catch me there 😪. Glad it turned out the way it did could have been much worse.

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Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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