Tararua trampers rescued from bush

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 07:08 16/01/2013

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Sheltering in a cramped bivouac with an injured daughter and a swollen river blocking their way out, Jennifer Mason knew help would be on its way.

The Lower Hutt woman and her daughters, 21-year-old Emma Dement and 18-year-old Lucy Dement, were rescued from the Tararua Range yesterday after spending two extra nights in the bush.

Due back on Sunday from an overnight tramp to the Waitewaewae Basin, the trio were forced to seek shelter in a Department of Conservation bivouac after Emma fell and hurt her knee.

Unable to cross the flooded river because of the injury, the women decided to wait it out, placing bright orange bags outside the shelter.

With little food remaining, the group were located by the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter yesterday morning and airlifted to Levin, where Emma received medical treatment.

Ms Mason, 55, said she had no doubt that they would be found.

"They [the rescue parties] did a fantastic job.

"I used to be involved in search and rescue and I had complete confidence that some day they would find us. I've been on the other end of it, I really do appreciate all these people who trooped around in the wet weather only to hear the helicopter picked us up."

Search co-ordinator Constable Kevin Dalzell said police were notified by Ms Mason's husband late on Sunday when they did not arrive home. One search and rescue team was deployed to the area on Monday afternoon and another three volunteer teams started searching at first light yesterday.

"While the group had good clothing, shelter, a cellphone, and food, they did not have a personal locator beacon or a mountain radio which are crucial to take when you're out in the bush," Mr Dalzell said. "There was no cellphone reception where the group was located and they would have had to climb some distance to get reception."

But despite the lack of a beacon Mr Dalzell said it was a good call to stay on the track under shelter until they were found.

The search went from the Waitohu Valley Road, through to Mt Thompson and the West Waitewaewae River, down to the Waitewaewae Hut and back up to High Point Mick.

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- The Dominion Post

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