Lake swelling floods hunters' campsite

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 15:27 03/04/2013

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Two hunters have been rescued from an ill-fated expedition in Fiordland, just days after another member of their party was airlifted out.

The pair, part of a five-strong hunting trip, activated their emergency locator beacon for the second time from George Sound at 5am today.

The rescue comes after another member was airlifted to the Te Anau Medical Centre last Thursday after falling and suffering a suspected broken leg.

The four remaining hunters had continued their trip, but their beacon was activated this morning after two of the men became hypothermic when their campsite was flooded overnight by a metre of water.

Their other hunting companions had been camping at a different site.

Land Search and Rescue medic Stew Burnby, who was on board the Southern Lakes rescue helicopter that picked up the two men, said both had mild hypothermia after being ''wet since Thursday''.

''They couldn't get dry, they were running low on food and couldn't get back to base camp,'' he said.

The pair had been camping close to the Large Burn River that joins Lake Marchant and Lake MacKinnon.

Burnby said the men were ''extremely well prepared'' and the rescue had been a case of the men being caught out in bad weather.

''When they went to bed the lake was 30 metres away, when they woke up it was in their campsite,'' Burnby said.

He understood that after speaking to police, the hunters returned home without seeking medical assistance.

''They were a bit wet, we got them some dry gear and got some food in them and they're off home now.''

One of the men is believed to be the brother of the man airlifted out last Thursday.

Burnby said there were ''plenty'' of hunters in the Fiordland at the moment for wapiti deer hunting season, which typically started in the middle of March and lasted until mid-April.

Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) search and rescue mission controller Geoff Lunt said the second activation again proved the worth of the personal locator beacons.

"For the second time on a single trip, this beacon has led to a positive outcome for what could have been a very serious situation," he said.

"There is no question that beacons save time in search and rescue operations, and that can mean saving lives."

Lunt said the hunters had been in a ''steep and heavily bushed'' area south of George Sound.

''It's well isolated, there are no tracks that you'd find trampers on on a regular basis. It's a pretty remote area,'' he said.

Another two hunters have also been rescued in the Haast Pass area on the West Coast today.

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The hunters had set off their emergency beacon after one man became separated from the other in treacherous conditions overnight.

One man was picked up by the Aspiring rescue helicopter last night at the Franklin Hut, but the crew were unable to reach the second man because of bad weather.

The man was located "bluffed, cold and wet" this morning, but otherwise uninjured, and returned to the hut.

Before anyone headed out on a hunting trip it was crucial they had ''all the right information and equipment'' and obtained a locator beacon, Lunt said.

- The Southland Times

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