Police praise lost farmer's quick-thinking

Last updated 09:00 10/07/2014

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A farmer did everything right after he lost his way in rough weather while searching for stray cattle in the bush, police say.

The farmer was reported overdue in bush east of Matamata about 5.42pm last night, Waikato search and rescue co-ordinator, Constable Dave Pitchford, said today.

"The 48-year-old was searching for a number of cattle beasts that had broken through a boundary fence and gone into thick bush," he said.

"He was due out before last light but rang his wife on his cellphone about 5pm advising he'd lost his bearings. The man rang back a few times and advised his cellphone battery was going flat."

The farmer's wife then called police.

The farmer called again about 7pm to say he had found a bait line marked "J17".

"With that information we were able to contact the Waikato Regional Council who relayed where that line runs and with that information, coupled with info from the wife about where he was likely to have left his motorbike, we were started our search," Pitchford said.

Police found the motorbike and a search and rescue dog and handler, accompanied by two trackers, entered the bush and found the man on the bait line shortly before 11pm.

He was brought out cold but unharmed about 40 minutes later.

Pitchford said a number of factors contributed to the successful search that could help other people who found themselves in difficulty in the outdoors.

"Firstly the farmer had told his wife where he was going and roughly when he would be back," he said.

"When he became disorientated he identified early he had a problem and phoned in on his cellphone that he had the presence of mind to have with him.

"The weather conditions were quite rough and there was difficulty for the farmer hearing his wife and the police on the phone but he had gone out in good wet weather gear. Then, when he located the bait line and marker he relayed the information by phone and stayed put which was the real key to our success - find an identifiable point and stay put."

Pitchford said last night's search also highlighted the value of the service provided to the community by the Land Search and Rescue volunteers.

"Everyone is aware that last night was a pretty rough one but here we have these volunteers happy to assist police in locating a person and returning them safely to their family." 

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- Waikato Times

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