Trampers urged to carry signal devices

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 29/12/2012

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Southern Search and Rescue members have called for trampers to carry communication devices after a climber had to wait for more than five hours to be rescued from Mitre Peak, Milford Sound, on Thursday.

Sergeant Tod Hollebon, of Te Anau Police Search and Rescue, said a 30-year-old Dunedin woman suffered a leg injury while climbing on the footstool area of Mitre Peak about 2.30pm but search and rescue was not contacted until 7.15pm because the woman and her partner did not have an emergency beacon.

The partner of the injured woman had to climb back down to the base of Mitre Peak and paddle his kayak to Milford village to raise the alarm.

While the rescue outcome on this occasion was favourable, carrying a means of communication such as an emergency locator beacon would have given the couple a much faster response to the emergency situation they faced, Mr Hollebon said.

Te Anau police were contacted five hours after the woman was injured and co-ordinated a rescue, Mr Hollebon said.

A winch-equipped Southern Lakes helicopter, piloted by Mark Deaker with a doctor and paramedic on board, flew to the site where the climber was located and winched her from the site.

The woman was airlifted to the Southland Hospital, in Invercargill, with a suspected broken ankle.

Mr Deaker, an experienced SAR pilot, has also urged trampers and climbers to be prepared for the unexpected.

He said while yesterday's rescue ended well, it could have been a different story if the climbers had been in a more remote part of Fiordland.

"Despite being relatively near to Milford Sound, the climber was injured at about 2.30pm, we got a call around 7pm and by the time we ended up winching the climber off the peak it was getting dark," Mr Deaker said.

"If they were in a remote area it could have been days before the alarm was raised for a rescue," he said.

He said the lack of a communication device was often the biggest downfall for trampers and climbers.

"Being injured and isolated can be a long and traumatic time for the injured person and with the communication devices available today there is no excuse not to be equipped with a means of calling for help," Mr Deaker said.

Emergency beacons were affordable to buy and it was possible to hire beacons and hand-held radios in Fiordland, he said.

neil.ratley@stl.co.nz

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- The Southland Times

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