Personal beacons save hunters' lives

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 04/04/2013

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Personal locator beacons are saving lives, search and rescue authorities say, after one of the portable devices proved a saviour twice in six days.

Three hunters from the same hunting party were rescued in two separate incidents in the George Sound area of Fiordland after activating their beacon.

A Southern Lakes rescue helicopter was deployed to the remote part of Fiordland for the second time in a week when the Rescue Co-ordination Centre received a signal at 5am yesterday.

Two hunters, aged 48 and 41, were found and flown to Te Anau suffering hypothermia after their campsite was flooded during the night.

Centre spokesman Steve Rendle said yesterday's rescue came after the group also activated the beacon about 4pm last Thursday after a different member fell and injured his leg.

The hunter was picked up by the Southern Lakes rescue helicopter and taken to the Te Anau medical centre.

The remaining members of the party continued with their trip but were camping in two separate groups when the beacon was activated yesterday.

The Southern Lakes rescue helicopter returned to the area and found two of the men suffering the effects of a night in the cold and wet, Mr Rendle said.

The rest of the party made their own arrangements to be picked up.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand search and rescue mission controller Geoff Lunt said the second activation showed 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."

In an unrelated incident, two hunters activated their beacons about 6pm on Tuesday after one of the men became separated near Haast Pass and fired a series of shots to raise the alarm.

The Aspiring rescue helicopter located one of the men at the Franklin Hut but was unable to reach the second man because of bad weather.

The man was found trapped on a ridge cold and wet, but otherwise uninjured, yesterday morning and returned to the hut.

A New Zealand Search and Rescue newsletter released last month says there were 35,377 personal locator beacons registered in New Zealand, with registrations increasing 67 per cent in the three months ending March 2013, compared with the same period last year.

The newsletter also says the Southern Police District had 695 land-based search and rescues in the past six years, the highest number in the country.

BEACON TIPS

- Get a personal locator beacon with GPS.

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- Carry it on you - don't leave it in your pack.

- Register your beacon - it is free and it can be done online at www.beacons.org.nz.

- Providing emergency contacts who know where you are can take the search out of search and rescue and save valuable time.

- Only use a beacon in an emergency or life-threatening situation.

- The Southland Times

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