Two tourists stranded on the Haast River would probably have died had they tried crossing the river, police say.
The Wanaka Police Search and Rescue team rescued the 33-year-old man and 32-year-old woman about 1.30pm yesterday after they became stuck in bad weather.
Search and Rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Aaron Nicholson said the American couple, who were on a six-month working holiday, had earlier walked into the Mt Brewster Hut from the Fantail Falls car park, just north of the Haast-Wanaka divide on State Highway 6.
They had then crossed the Haast River on Sunday for a day's ski touring.
Bad weather meant the pair stayed in the hut on Sunday night and then tried to walk out yesterday, getting stranded on the wrong side of the rising Haast River. The pair spent a day in the pouring rain in a makeshift shelter.
A passing courier van driver noticed the pair waving frantically from the other side of the river and stopped to investigate. He subsequently raised the alarm, Mr Nicholson said.
Bad weather had made getting to the rescue site difficult, he said.
''There was a lot of debris on the road as a result of the weather conditions. About 2km from where the pair was on the other side of the river a large tree had been blown across the road completely blocking the highway. The rescue team used hand-saws to cut the tree's branches and pulled branches off the road with their four-wheel-drive vehicle to get access to a point where they could potentially undertake a rescue.''
After assessing conditions, the rescue team used an inflatable raft to ferry the stranded pair back to the roadside.
Mr Nicholson praised the couple's decision to not try crossing the river.
"These two did the right thing by not trying to swim across the river. Given the poor weather conditions at the time and the amount of water that was pumping we would have certainly had a fatality on our hands if they had tried to swim the river.''
The couple, who leave for the United States next week, were both cold but otherwise in good spirits after their ordeal, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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