Missing tramper's bicycle found

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 19:25 26/12/2012
Alistair Levy
MISSING: Alistair Levy

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Police have today found a bicycle belonging to experienced tramper Alistair Levy, missing after reaching the summit of Mt Owen.

The 54-year-old teacher from Palmerston North sent a text message from the summit of the peak in Kahurangi National Park on Sunday but has not been seen or heard from since.

He had planned to join wife Tracy and other family members in Christchurch for Christmas.

Today, five teams of Search and Rescue searchers and the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter were scouring Mt Owen for him.

His bicycle has been found at the cafe at Kohatu where Mr Levy had arranged to leave it with the cafe owners.

Police search and rescue coordinator Sergeant Mike Fitzsimons said it supported the theory that Mr Levy had intended to tramp through from Mt Owen and use the bike to get back his vehicle parked at Courthouse Flat.

Searchers today included a dog and cavers dropped in by helicopter.

Helicopter pilot Tim Douglas-Clifford, who searched yesterday afternoon and from 11.30pm last night until 2am today using night vision goggles and an infrared camera, described it as extreme, hostile terrain and said the search was challenging.

"Going out on the south side it's very steep, with a lot of caves, big craters, jagged rocks and deep crevasses. It drops down into heavy bush, and it's almost impossible to see through."

It is an area where the ending of the first Lord of the Rings movie was filmed.

Today, John van den Bosch, a friend of Mr Levy for more than 20 years, described him as a highly experienced tramper who meticulously planned his trips.

"He has this great ambition to cover the whole of the South Island from north to south."

Mr van den Bosch, who used to live in Palmerston North, accompanied Mr Levy on many of those trips in the 1990s. They included a six-day crossing of the South Island from the West Coast to the Rakaia Gorge, the Heaphy Track, and parts of the Hollyford Track.

Mr van den Bosch lives in Christchurch, and this Christmas the two families swapped houses. Mr van den Bosch is anxiously waiting at Mr Levy's home for news of him.

Mr van den Bosch said Mr Levy tried to get others to go with him on tramping trips but it did not always suit them.

Mr Levy is believed to be carrying a purple and black backpack but did not have an emergency locator beacon with him.

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It was raining in the area today but the weather is expected to clear tomorrow.

Some of the search teams will remain in the area overnight and the search will continue tomorrow.

Police had a number of people who were in the area come forward but would still like to speak to anyone else who has been tramping in or around Mt Owen since Saturday.

Anyone with information about Mr Levy is asked to contact Nelson
police on 03 546 3840.

During yesterday's aerial search, the helicopter was called away to Tonga Quarry Camp at Tonga Bay in Abel Tasman National Park, after a man in his 50s and his 14-year-old son were scalded by boiling water when a camp stove was knocked over.

The helicopter was unable to land, so the Intensive Care Paramedic on board was winched down to the pair to administer medical care, before the pair were winched on board and flown to Nelson Hospital.

In another rescue, two English tourists perched precariously on a steep bluff south of Nelson were winched to safety by a rescue helicopter on Christmas Eve.

The pair, in their 20s, were at Waiau Pass in the southern Nelson Lakes National Park when they made a navigation error and found themselves unable to move in steep terrain. They decided to activate their emergency beacon.

Meanwhile, a German tourist has died while tramping in Mt Aspiring National Park.

The 38-year-old's body was found yesterday after he went missing two days ago in the Cascade Saddle area of the park, near Wanaka.

- The Nelson Mail

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