Missing man info not shared
Nelson search and rescue were not notified a Christchurch tramper was missing in the Lewis Pass area and only stumbled across the 17-year-old case this year.
Clifford Carn, 51, of Christchurch, went missing in January 1995.
He was reported missing after he failed to turn up to his job as groundsman at Cashmere High School.
Nelson search and rescue co-ordinator Sherp Tucker said he became aware of the police file on Mr Carn a few months ago.
He was surprised to discover a missing person file in the Tasman district he was unaware of.
Australian-born, Mr Carn had no family in Christchurch and few friends. A former workmate said he was just about his best friend, and at Mr Carn's inquest recalled his friend's oddball behaviour before he went missing; including the fact Mr Carn went from a non-smoking vegetarian to a cigarette-smoking meat eater.
He was last seen at the D'Urville Bivvie headed towards the Thompson Pass, in the Lewis Pass/Nelson Lakes area. He was wearing overalls and had a large pack with a lot of gear.
A tramper at the inquest said he was concerned about the snow conditions in the pass. Mr Carn said he would turn back if he got in trouble.
At the coroner's inquest into Mr Carn's death, police said that because of the time delay in the notification that Mr Carn was missing, it was not possible to launch a search operation. Police said "there was no starting point".
Coroner Richard McElrea said there was insufficient evidence to establish if the death was accidental or intentional.
Mr Tucker said he was struck by the similarity between Mr Carn's disappearance and the disappearance of United States tramper Ed Reynolds, who went missing in the Lewis Pass/Nelson Lakes area in 2009.
He said the length of time before search and rescue was notified that Mr Reynolds was missing and a search was mounted was similar to the time before authorities were alerted that Mr Carn was missing.
One of his major questions was why a search was not mounted for Mr Carn.
"If we were informed we would have had a search team in there."
Mr Carn would have been "reasonably findable".
"Finding people is just a matter of investigation. You really don't know what you would find until you start investigating. You've got to start to find something."
He said while the area was on the boundary with Canterbury, that was irrelevant. Search and rescue teams from both areas had jointly searched in the area before.
While police were only alerted to the fact Mr Reynolds was missing weeks after he disappeared, they still launched an extensive search to locate him. Search and rescue volunteers mounted several searches in the area, going back when further information came to light.
Sergeant Mike Fitzsimons, of Nelson Bays Search and Rescue, said this year was the first time they were aware of the case and he also did some digging to see what the file was about.
Mr Fitzsimons said he was in the search and rescue squad in 1995 and was surprised when it came up as he did not recall it at all.
"It made me somewhat curious."
Mr Fitzsimons said he would expect to be made aware of any missing people files in the Tasman district. He believed the framework around searches had improved and he did not believe a similar situation would arise today. "The less-than-unified structure has been recognised by police, that's why we have a missing person unit that oversees all these things."
Mr Fitzsimons said he was also hit by the similarities of the case with Mr Reynolds.
- © Fairfax NZ News