Man, 82, stuck in West Coast cave

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 14:57 22/11/2012

SlideshowBullock Creek


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A man has been rescued from a West Coast cave after spending a night in the underground tunnel.

The 82-year-old man, who was named as Derek Lipyeat, went on a solo caving expedition in Kubla Khan cave in Bullock Creek, near Punakaiki about 5pm yesterday.

The man's wife was forced to walk 8km to alert authorities after her husband failed to return from the cave.

Searchers located the man about 11am today about 50m underground.

He had become exhausted and was unable to leave the cave.

Canterbury Caving Group president Alice Shanks said Lipyeat was a long-time member of the group.

"He is very experienced and has been in that cave many times. He knew what he was doing."

He had "done the right thing" in having his wife outside the cave.

"Although it was a solo-caving trip he had his wife there to raise an alarm if something happened. The system worked well. It wasn't as if two people went in with no-one watching."

The police and the South Island Cave Search and Rescue had held a training weekend in the same cave in October.

"We had practised in this exact cave so everyone knew what to do with the rescue. It was fantastic. We identified that as a popular cave and it has paid off."

Shanks said the cave was "very popular" but not that remote or dangerous.

"It is very rare that someone fails to return from a caving trip. It's great that he had the necessary precautions in place though."

His wife had waited overnight at the cave entrance in their campervan for him to return.

When he didn't return by this morning, the woman - who does not drive - walked 8km to Punakaiki to raise the alarm.

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