Elderly caver rescued after wife raises alarm

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 05:00 23/11/2012
Derek and Moira Lipyeat
Scott Mieras/Canterbury Caving Group
CAVERS: Derek and Moira Lipyeat at a cave in the Paturau area.

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An elderly Christchurch woman walked 8 kilometres to raise the alarm after her husband ended up stuck in a cave overnight.

Long-time caver Derek Lipyeat, of Redcliffs, went on a solo caving expedition in Kubla Khan cave in Bullock Creek, near Punakaiki about 5pm on Wednesday.

His wife, Moira, was forced to walk 8km to alert authorities after her husband failed to return from the cave.

Searchers found Derek Lipyeat about 11am yesterday about 50 metres underground.

He was exhausted and unable to leave the cave unassisted. He was taken by ambulance to Grey Base Hospital with minor injuries and breathing problems.

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

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."

Moira Lipyeat had waited overnight at the cave entrance in their campervan for her husband to return. When he did not return by this morning, Moira Lipyeat, who does not drive, walked 8km to Punakaiki to raise the alarm. Shanks said Derek Lipyeat had been in the cave many times and 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."

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 [it] as a popular cave and it has paid off."

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