Police have serious concerns about an overdue British tramper after a helicopter search failed to find any sign of him.
It was a case of "deja vu" for police, as the same tramper failed to reach a planned meeting when walking the same trail last year, police search and rescue coordinator senior constable Gerry Tonkin said.
Andrew Ian Wyatt, 41, arrived in New Zealand on November 21 set for a second attempt at walking the Te Araroa Trail, which links tramping routes from Cape Reinga to Bluff.
He was last seen on December 15, when he left Blue Lake Hut about 6am. He was due to pick up a food package at Boyle Village in Lewis Pass on December 16, but he never turned up.
Wyatt's parents in Cornwall, England have not heard from him since December 12 and are "very concerned" for his safety.
A helicopter spent three hours on Monday visiting all of the huts in the area. Tonkin said there were a lot of trampers on the tracks, but no sign of Wyatt.
Tonkin said police hoped Wyatt had changed his plans and left the area. Police would focus on tracing Wyatt's bank and telephone records, in case he had left the trail and was unaware of the concerns for his safety.
Tonkin said the case was a bit "bizarre" because Wyatt had done something similar last year. He had been walking the Te Araroa and planned to meet fellow walkers in Arthurs Pass, but instead left the trail and never met them.
Police did not search for him that time, because he was never reported as a missing person.
Tonkin hoped Wyatt had done the same thing again and was "sitting in a cafe in Queenstown" unaware that police were searching for him.
"If he is still in that area then we have serious concerns for his welfare, given that he was last seen almost 10 days ago."
Wyatt was classed as a "light-weight tramper", which meant if something went wrong he would have "no back up," Tonkin said.
The area Wyatt had planned to walk through was "probably the trickiest section of the whole trail" with major hazards such as bluffs and steep slopes, Tonkin said.
"If he'd stayed on the trail, he'd be fine."
If Wyatt's bank and cell phone records did not yield any hints, Tonkin said deteriorating weather would likely prevent further searching until Friday.
Police would like to speak with anyone who was tramping in the Blue Lake, Sabine Valley, D'Urville Valley area of Nelson Lakes National Park between December 13 and 19.
Wyatt is 6ft 1in tall, with ginger hair and was carrying light equipment.
Anyone with any information that may be relevant to this search should contact Nelson Police, Ph 03 546 3840.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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