Eight "at risk" Tararua teens have been hailed as heroes for their part in a three-hour rescue mission.
The boys, all from Dannevirke and aged 14-16, were walking a trail while on a camp at Lake Waikaremoana on Tuesday when one of the wider group, 19-year-old Alistair Dell, fell down a bank into a cave.
The teens were on a camp sponsored by Ruahine Maori wardens, with Dannevirke's Youth Aid officer, Senior Constable Wayne Churchouse.
Alistair was not among the core group, but went with his father, Douglas Dell, a Maori warden who was also supervising the trip.
Mr Churchouse said the camp was a reward for Tui Angus, 16, Axel Goodwin, 16, Caleb Kamura, 15, Zafar Hussain, 15, Sebastian Pearson, 15, Jeremy Matthews, 15, Rawiri Akaraina, 15, and Monty Bristowe-Chase, 14, who had chosen to make good life choices.
The camp had been about building teamwork and respect and, as it turned out, the accident tested both.
Following the tumble, Mr Dell started calling Alistair's name, then called for Mr Churchouse, alerting him to the trouble. After calling and getting no response, Mr Churchouse said he finally heard a soft groan.
Getting to the boy was a scramble, using an entrance further back down the track. He clambered down a branch wedged in against a slope and 4-metre drop.
Two of the more agile boys joined him, helping to stop Alistair slipping any further on the soft soil.
Back at the top of the cave, Zafar and best mate Caleb were sent sprinting back along the track to the car park for a first-aid kit and rope.
Caleb said the run was about 15 minutes each way, and they went back and forth multiple times throughout the three-hour rescue.
Alistair was in pain and having trouble breathing with injured ribs.
After escorting paramedics to the site, the teens then helped pull Alistair, bound to a stretcher, out of the cave using ropes before carrying him out to a ambulance, which took him to a helicopter landing site.
Mr Churchouse said the teens stayed calm and "gelled" as a team.
"They did awesome - great team work, great communication. They were all listening. They gave it 100 per cent."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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