Range tragedy despite CPR efforts

MOUNTAIN MAN: Gilbert Hayes tramping in the Mt Cook Region in 2011.
MOUNTAIN MAN: Gilbert Hayes tramping in the Mt Cook Region in 2011.

A keen tramper who loved helping people died on a perfect day in the Tararua Range, despite a friend's efforts to save him.

Gilbert Hayes, 68, of Masterton, died of a suspected massive heart attack as he tramped in the area of the Blue Range Hut on Sunday. Son Matt Hayes said his father's death was sad, but the family was taking comfort in how it happened.

"He was a really keen man of the hills . . . it was an absolutely beautiful day up there."

Hayes' widow, Irene, said her husband's ashes would be scattered in the Tararuas, where the retired fitter and turner discovered a love for tramping after migrating from England in 1967.

"That's where it all began for him and that's where it's ended too, unfortunately. But if somebody has to go, I guess this is the best way."

Nigel Boniface, secretary of the Masterton Tramping Club and a search and rescue volunteer, was with Hayes on the way up to the hut.

"It was a glorious sunny day, Gilbert had been a bit slow going up and he stopped about 10 minutes before the hut to enjoy the views," he said

Hayes complained of chest pains, so Boniface dialled 111, and was advised to give him aspirin.

"I gave him the aspirin, he took a couple of chews, looked at me and said, 'Oh shit,' and that was it, as quick as that."

Boniface began CPR, and continued until the Westpac rescue helicopter arrived. Wellington police spokesman Nick Bohm said: "He was really trying - 30 to 40 minutes of CPR is no mean feat for anybody."

Matt Hayes said Boniface had done all he could. "If anyone could save him it was him; it was too sudden and too massive, I guess."

Irene Hayes said Blue Range Hut was important to her husband because he and other tramping club members spent many hours doing maintenance on it. "You got a beautiful view just before the hut, which is where he ate his lunch the day he died . . a big panorama of the mountains."

Matt Hayes described his father as a caring, selfless father and grandfather who loved the outdoors and volunteering.

Since retiring about five years ago, the former hydro-dam maintenance worker and later Wairarapa Hospital boiler-room caretaker became an active volunteer with Senior Net Wairarapa, a provider of computer training for older people.

A funeral service for Hayes is to be held in Masterton on Friday.

The Dominion Post