Missing elderly skier found with broken legs
A 72-year-old skier forced to spend the night in mountains near Wanaka with two broken legs battled to stay awake and exercised his arms to avoid hypothermia.
Toby Kravet, an American who lives in Hawaii, was found in the Gottleibs Saddle at 8.20am today.
Kravet, who has been visiting New Zealand to ski for 20 years, was treated at the Wanaka Medical Centre and transferred to Dunedin Hospital.
At 2pm, a hospital spokeswoman said he was in surgery.
Police had last night held "grave concerns" for Kravet after he failed to meet his scheduled bus ride from the skifield back to his Queenstown accommodation yesterday afternoon.
A helicopter search overnight using night-vision equipment failed to find any trace of Kravet, and the search was restarted at daybreak today.
However, Kravet was found well outside the ski area boundary in the Gottleibs Saddle area at 8.20am by Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR) Wanaka volunteers, searching with Aspiring Helicopters pilot James Ford.
The driver of a bus between the resort and the ski area alerted authorities that Kravet was missing after he failed to board the bus when the skifield closed at 4.30pm yesterday.
It appeared Mr Kravet had boarded the Saddle Basin chairlift at about 2.30pm. When he got off at the top, the visibility was so poor he turned left instead of right and ended up "just traversing" well outside the ski area boundary.
He skied into a snow drift in the Gottleibs Saddle and broke both his legs. It was believed the breaks were in his lower legs. He spent the night in that position, in temperatures that would have been below zero.
"He very conscious of the dangers of hypothermia and went to a lot of effort to try and avoid going to sleep. He did exercises - waved his arms around," Melchior said.
"It's a great outcome - we are chuffed. The chances of it having been a different outcome are obviously very high."
Land Search and Rescue volunteers searched yesterday afternoon until dusk and for three hours at night using a Heliworks helicopter fitted with night vision equipment.
Three volunteers resumed the search at daybreak this morning, just before 7am, along with pilot James Ford from Aspiring Helicopters.
"It was difficult - very flat light and cloud coming and going," Melchior said.
"He was in remarkably good spirits and good shape, apart from injuries."
LandSAR volunteer Brian Weedon said Kravet had been found lying on his back, in deep snow, where he had fallen at about 3pm yesterday.
"He was delighted to see us and was in remarkable shape, despite his injuries," Mr Weedon said.
Police search coordinator Senior Constable Emma Fleming said Kravet had "significant injuries" but was in "good spirits".
Wanaka LandSAR team leader Brent Arthur said the rescue had been "a very tricky, quick snatch and grab".
"It was very difficult in flat light, with cloud coming and going."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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