Rescuers hailed for saving tourist

SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 13:00 30/01/2014
Maruia Falls accident
Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter

HARNESSING BRAVERY: The scene at Maruia Falls, where a tourist was rescued by kayakers.

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A 60-year-old Belgian tourist is lucky to be alive after kayakers rescued him from the Maruia Falls.

Police said the man climbed over the barriers to photograph the falls when he slipped and fell 3 metres into a crevasse near the front of the falls about midday yesterday.

A group of three kayakers nearby were equipped with ropes and other climbing equipment and lowered one of their party into the crevasse to retrieve the man.

They fashioned a harness out of straps and were able to pull the injured man on to rocks above the falls.

Constable Willy Squires said they did all the right things to care for the man.

They stabilised him on the rocks with his head and neck supported before emergency services arrived, he said.

"What they did to get the man out of danger was incredibly brave.

"This man is very lucky these men were on the spot and had the skills to save him."

Constable Squires said the man had been submerged for a short period and suffered shoulder, spine and head injuries.

"I'd say he can thank these young men for saving his life today. If they hadn't been there, the outcome could have been very different."

The Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter flew the injured man, and his wife, to Nelson Hospital.

A Nelson Marlborough District Health Board spokeswoman today said it could not comment on his condition.

Meanwhile, a paragliding champion emerged unscathed after crash landing into trees near Takaka Hill.

New Zealand paragliding champion Kussy Gomez, of Queenstown, was flying as part of the Paragliding Open competition when a wing failed, she lost height and crash landed at 5pm yesterday.

The 39-year-old was winched on board the Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter before being flown to Golden Bay medical centre for assessments.

New Zealand Hang gliding and Paragliding Association PG Open media spokeswoman Jude Tarr said competitors were required to have safety equipment in the event things went wrong.

The area where the woman landed was very rocky and it was surprising she did not suffer any injuries.

Conditions could be very fierce in Nelson, she said.

Accidents such as this happened, but a strict protocol was always in place.

It was fortunate that the pilot was very skilled, she said.

Ms Gomez was able to communicate via radio to the competition director to relay her condition and location.

"She is a really experienced pilot and she followed the correct procedure beautifully."

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