Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Grandmother lost in dense bush for three nights

Kaimanawa Forest Park. File photo / Hawke's Bay Today
Kaimanawa Forest Park. File photo / Hawke's Bay Today

A grandmother who spent three nights lost in dense bush is fortunate to be still alive, her rescuers say.

Lucy Solomon, 62, was fatigued, exhausted and starting to hallucinate when she was finally found in the Kaimanawa Forest Park, near Lake Taupo, on Tuesday afternoon.

She'd become lost after her male companion had left her to go hunting.

The Turangi grandmother then spent three nights trying to find her way out.

When she was finally rescued, her searchers described her as being "away with the fairies", and her believing she couldn't last another night.

Search and rescue experts say valuable lessons should be learned from Mrs Solomon's ordeal.

SAR co-ordinator Senior Constable Barry Shepherd said two major mistakes were made.

While Mrs Solomon went missing on Saturday evening, her companion failed to raise the alarm until Monday morning.

He spent all of Sunday looking for her without any luck.

"We want to know sooner than later and get the experts doing the business and find people sooner," Mr Shepherd said.

"There's nothing to be gained in leaving it longer. If your companion is lost, don't waste your time looking for them, call us."

The second basic error, which Mr Shepherd says went against what the Mountain Safety Council recommends, is that Mrs Solomon tried to walk to safety herself.

Mrs Solomon had admitted she was lucky to survive, after falling down a cliff and into a river.

"It's a hell of lot more difficult looking for a moving target than a stationary target," Mr Shepherd said.

"We know a bit about lost person behaviour. People lose a grip on on their whereabouts, perhaps more mentally than physically.

"It's probably quite fortunate that she's not dead."

It was crucial that anyone who was lost to simply "sit down and park up", he said.

Mrs Solomon was found about 3km downstream of the Tauranga-Taupo waterfall after 25 volunteers and police, using dogs and a helicopter, searched for two days.

"We spent a few dollars looking for Lucy," Mr Shepherd said.

"Everyone got a real buzz in finding her, and they love doing what they do, don't get me wrong.

"But you'd hate to find her body at the end of the trail. You'd bloody hate for Lucy to have died."

- APNZ

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