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A man treated for hypothermia after being found in the Waitakere Ranges may have been lost for several days, paramedics say.
The man, aged in his 50s, was discovered semi-conscious lying in a stream in the bush-clad ranges, 30 kilometres west of Auckland, yesterday afternoon. Rescuers said he was lucky to be alive.
A hiker saw the man lying in the stream under a bridge. There was no cellphone coverage so he activated his emergency locator beacon to alert emergency services.
The rescuer then guided the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter to the exact location by reflecting the sun's rays.
The injured man was winched to safety by the helicopter crew and treated for hypothermia before being flown to Auckland City Hospital in a critical condition.
Intensive care flight paramedic Rob Gemmell said the man was extremely fortunate to be found when he was.
He said it was unclear how long the man had been in the water but he may have been lost in the bush for several days, given his hypothermic state.
"He's lucky to be alive and lucky he was found," Gemmell said.
Gemmell praised the quick thinking of the hiker and the fact he was carrying an emergency locator beacon that allowed emergency services to find him quickly.
"They're absolutely invaluable," he said.
"If that gentleman didn't have a beacon on him then it would have been a case of him having to leave the area, hike out to a trail head and then try to raise the alarm.
"Even if he could have got cellphone coverage at the trail head or at the car park it would have been quite a period of time between him discovering the patient and raising the alarm."
The man was in a serious condition with hypothermia when he was taken to Auckland City Hospital about 3.30pm yesterday. He had no other discernible injuries, Gemmell said.