'Mule' transports hurt tourist to safety

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2013

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A wrong step and an injured ankle turned a walk in the Hooker Valley into a holiday adventure an American tourist could probably have done without.

What the visitor did get was first-hand experience of New Zealand's search and rescue service.

The 57-year-old woman took a tumble while walking on the Hooker Valley track in the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park yesterday afternoon.

Her tour guide phoned the Conservation Department visitor centre, and the search and rescue team began the 2.5 kilometre walk up the track with a "mule", a single-wheel stretcher-carrying cart, to carry the woman to the White Horse Hill camping ground.

She was then collected by the Mt Cook St John Ambulance team, assessed, and taken to Timaru Hospital by ambulance for an X-ray on her ankle.

"This is the longest distance that we have used the mule to stretcher out a patient in the park," SAR team leader Jim Spencer said.

"It was only a few kilometres but the terrain is quite rough and tricky for the team in places. We had to negotiate two swing bridges, one which was widened last year, and the other a brand new structure. The team worked well, and the mule proved its worth again".

It requires a team of four to six people to manoeuvre it along the terrain, and is ideal for the Hooker Valley track, Mr Spencer said.

The mule was given to the DOC SAR team at Mt Cook by the Mid and South Canterbury Community Trust five years ago.

"It has proved its worth in carrying patients in this tracked environment", SAR operations manager for the rescue, Shirley Slatter, said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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