Farcical search for 'oblivious' man

23:57, Mar 09 2014
James Williams
SPEEDING TICKET: James Williams was last seen by a police officer the night he was due to start work.

A man who went missing after his car broke down in a remote area of the Tararua Range slept with a towel for a blanket as he waited for someone to find him.

James Williams, 27, was found safe and well, but very hungry, in Wellington on Saturday morning after finally getting his car to start, two nights after it broke down in the wilderness.

Williams became lost while driving to work at Niwa from Rotorua to Wellington on Thursday night, family spokeswoman Julie Hill said.

Niwa vessel Tangaroa
DESTINATION: James Williams was set to work on the Niwa vessel Tangaroa but has not turned up.

He failed to take the turn-off to Wellington at Sanson and then figured it would be faster to go to Wellington through the Tararuas.

When he realised it was not, he tried to get back to State Highway 1, with disastrous consequences.

"He has no idea where he ended up but it was miles away from anything and then the car broke down.


"If you know James you'll understand - he will get lost walking across a paddock."

Williams' last contact before he went missing was with a police officer in Bulls who pulled him over for speeding about 4.30pm on Thursday.

Williams had explained to the officer that he was late, which had family fearing the worst.

He had left his cellphone at home and was uncontactable.

A group of 16 of Williams' friends and whanau met in Bulls to scour the roadsides from the Rangitikei town to Wellington for traces of him on Sunday morning.

They had almost made it to Wellington when he turned up at a friend's house, having "fiddled" with the brown Nissan March successfully.

"We must have been following him down," Hill said.

"He was totally oblivious - he didn't know the whole country was looking for him," she said.

Hill said Williams had attempted to walk to get help when the car broke down but after going about three kilometres without any sign of life, he turned around so he would not get even more lost.

The family wanted to thank those who joined a search party for him and helped to find him by spreading word on Facebook.

"We really couldn't be happier," she said.