Lost bikers build fire to survive cold

By Brendan Manning

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

Two trailbikers missing in Upper Hutt last night used petrol from their bikes to build a fire so they could survive a cold, wet night in the Akatarawa forest, police say.

Wellington police Sergeant Guy Callahan said a call was received at 7.55pm last night from a woman who called to report her husband and son-in-law missing.

The 23 and 50-year-old had gone to ride the Karapoti circuit off Karapoti Road near the Akatarawa Valley but failed to make it home.

Mr Callahan said the pair made contact with police at 8.55am to say they became lost overnight and had to find cellphone coverage to call for help.

"They were three to four kilometres from the road when they called us.

"They're fine and well and making their way out under their own steam.''

Relieving officer in charge of Wellington Police District Search and Rescue (SAR), Acting Sergeant Anthony Harmer, said the pair had been riding trailbikes, not mountain bikes as earlier reported, and had built a fire to get through the night.

Wellington Land SAR volunteer Wayne Stevens said the pair managed to climb to the top of a hill to gain cellphone reception this morning, but he was unsure where they had bunkered down for the night.

"What we were told from the family is that they went into the Karapoti circuit area on trailbikes.

"Last night we had two police four-wheel-drives, one police quad bike, plus a quad bike and four-wheel-drive from Upper Hutt Community Rescue.''

Mr Stevens said 12 people were involved in the search, which went through until 4am.

"It was really wet - it was pouring down with rain and it was misty.''

Temperatures dropped below 10 degrees in the area, "we had a few concerns for their wellbeing'', he said.

"We were told they were in jeans and t-shirts.''

Mr Stevens said it would have been "really bad'' for the pair if they hadn't lit a fire.

"Obviously they got their fuel from the petrol - from the trailbikes. I know the older guy was an ex-forestry worker - he obviously had a bit of outdoor knowledge.

"I'm quite interested to find out where they were located and why we didn't find them. We normally get about one or two cases a year on the Karapoti circuit of either trailbikers being overnighted (they've run out of petrol or broken down) or mountain bikers who fall off their bikes.

"Normally they're straightforward operations - we go out in the middle of the night in our four-wheel-drives and we do the circuit and we pick them up and come back out.

"Last night obviously these guys weren't on the circuit.''

- APNZ

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