Coast to Coast runners spark rescue search

Photo / Pam Johnson
Photo / Pam Johnson

A Search & Rescue Operation was launched about midday today after a group of four runners training for the Coast to Coast race were caught in bad weather.

The party of four women who were forced to stop at the Goat Pass Hut after one of the group became hypothermic. They used the Department of Conservation radio at the hut to call for assistance.

Despite the bad weather a Rescue Helicopter from Garden City in Christchurch was able to uplift the group and fly them back to Arthur's Pass where the woman was treated for mild hypothermia.

Shortly afterwards the Rescue Coordination Centre received a 406 beacon activation in the Deception River area, only a few kilometres north west of the Goat Pass Hut.

This group was also using the same section of the Coast to Coast course as a training run and were caught in the bad weather. Creeks in the area rose rapidly, trapping them between two tributaries.

The same Rescue Helicopter was able locate them and also fly them back to Arthur's Pass.

Sergeant Sean Judd of West Coast Police said: "The groups were not equipped well enough in regards to their clothing to be in that area in that weather.

"This simply comes down to a poor decision to enter into mountains when the forecast was for heavy rain. It was pure luck that visibility remained sufficient to allow the Rescue Helicopter to get in and extract the groups, as a prolonged stay in the mountains waiting for ground teams to assist them could have had a very different outcome."

On a positive note it was pleasing to see the carriage of the emergency beacon and the decision to call for help via the hut radio before matters became worse, Sergeant Judd said.

Land Search & Rescue Dog Handler Duncan Hamilton, previous competitor in the Coast to Coast event had also planned to take a group through the same route that day. After checking the forecast he postponed the trip.

He was called to Arthur's Pass to assist in the rescue.

Police are reminding those who are heading into the back country of the five simple rules of the outdoor safety code:

ONE
Plan your trip. Seek local knowledge, plan your route and allow a reasonable amount of time.

TWO
Tell Someone. Let someone know your plans and when to raise the alarm if you haven't returned.

THREE
Be aware of the weather. Check the forecast and expect weather changes.

FOUR
Know your limits. Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience.

FIVE
Take Sufficient Supplies. Take enough food, equipment, clothing and emergency rations - plus an appropriate means of communication, for the worst-case scenario.

Further information can be found at www.adventuresmart.org.nz

Sergeant Judd said: "We have had many recent calls regarding overdue trampers from concerned friends and family where the information supplied is minimal.

"Police are left trying to make critical decisions regarding the welfare of the group with insufficient detail. This is slowing down our ability to respond and putting lives at risk."

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