Cornish village worried for missing tramper
Search teams and communications equipment are being flown into the Nelson Lakes National Park today as alpine search experts begin a hunt for missing British tramper Andrew Wyatt.
An air force Iroquois helicopter was flying the teams from Lake Station into the park to search for Wyatt, who was last seen 12 days ago.
Bad weather prevented searchers getting to the area before today, but four ground teams, one dog team and a communications team had been flown into the area today, police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn said.
The news that Wyatt is missing is now the talk of the village in Cornwall where he is from, and the small pub in Penryn, The Famous Barrell, where he sometimes drank.
"A lot of people are hoping he's found," landlady Angie Parfitt said.
She said Wyatt's brother died this time three years ago.
"Everyone is talking about it in the pub. We didn't know Andy that well, but we knew his brother Duncan well. He used to be a regular here, and Andy would come in only occasionally, mostly around Christmas.
"We all just hope he's found, for his parents' sake," Parfitt said.
Search co-ordinator Constable Dave Cogger said he was in daily contact with Wyatt's parents in England, who were extremely concerned for their son's welfare.
Wyatt has not been in contact with his parents in Cornwall since December 12.
Dunn said the ground search would involve the communications team putting in a repeater to enable searchers to communicate with the search co-ordination centre. It was not expected that any information would come out of the search area until later today.
The search was to start from Blue Lake towards Waiau Pass and Moss Pass.
Police said all the Search and Rescue volunteers had been selected for their expertise in alpine conditions, and would remain in the area until Sunday if required, when the weather was expected to deteriorate again.
Wyatt arrived in New Zealand on November 21 with the intention of walking the Te Araroa Trail, which links tramping routes from Cape Reinga to Bluff. The last known sighting of him was on December 15, when he left Blue Lake Hut about 6am.
The area between Wyatt's last sighting and his next intended destination was "one of the more remote and difficult parts" of the trail, said Sherp Tucker, the training officer for Search and Rescue Nelson.
"It's rugged, it's remote and the weather can change so much. It's a frequent place for the rescue helicopter to go to beacon activations for people who are hurt."
Tucker, who has been involved in Search and Rescue since 1962, was aware of two men who had disappeared in the same area.
However, miraculous stories of survival have occurred in the same rugged area.
In 2001, Christchurch tramper Henry Smith spent 10 days missing before he was found with a broken pelvis in a gully.
"Yes, [Mr Wyatt] could still be alive, without a doubt - just because it's been 12 days, you cannot say the man is not alive," Tucker said.
Police are keen 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 1.86m tall, with red hair, and was carrying light equipment.
Anyone with any information that may be relevant to the search should contact Nelson police, ph 035463840.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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