Stunning track claims first victim

A steep new walking track in Wellington has claimed its first victim barely two weeks after opening. Photo / Supplied
A steep new walking track in Wellington has claimed its first victim barely two weeks after opening. Photo / Supplied

A steep new walking track in Wellington has claimed its first victim barely two weeks after opening.

Wellington Free Ambulance communications manager Di Livingston said a man in his 60s suffered a cardiac arrest at the top of a near-vertical 220-metre climb up the Paekakariki hill on the track which opened on April 9.

Rob Wakelin of Te Araroa, the national walking trust which created the track, said other climbers administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but could not revive him.

Ms Livingston said two ambulances and a helicopter were sent, but were also unable to revive the man.

Mr Wakelin said about 600 people were walking on the track on a brilliantly fine Wellington day.

"Obviously we are just so tremendously sad for the man's family and friends," he said.
"The track itself has had such a phenomenal response in the last few weeks since it opened, it's just really taken the wind out of everyone's sails that this has happened."

Mr Wakelin told Fairfax Media before the opening that walkers would need to beat a series of long steep staircases on the track, but the stunning views of the Tasman Sea and South Island from the summit made it "like a stairway to heaven".

The track has about 1500 steps and much of it is cut into the steep hillside.

"We have included a lot of information around people with vertigo and having a good level of fitness," Mr Wakelin told the Herald.

"It has been built to a very high standard. There are box steps, and there is a nice, well formed, benched track, it's not just a goat track up the side of the hill.

"But with regard to taking this particular track, we do advise people to be well prepared because it can be quite exposed up top. Be aware of your fitness. I wouldn't attempt it if you've got vertigo, and, like most adventures, let someone know where you're going."
He said the trust briefed emergency services before the track opened about various access points along the 10km walk from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay.

"Where this happened was within pretty close touch by four-wheel drive, within 100 metres of the track," he said.

He said the whole walk would take a fit person three to four hours, reaching the summit after about 80 to 90 minutes from Paekakariki railway station or in about two hours from Pukerua Bay station.

"I understand it was up at that high point where the incident happened," he said.

"We obviously, like anything else, will go through a thorough review and see if there is more we can do, but certainly all the information we have says it was just a really tragic incident."

He said it was the second death on a Te Araroa track since the national walkway opened in 2011. British radiographer Andy Wyatt, 41, fell to his death from a cliff at the top of a section of the trail at the Waiau Pass in the Nelson Lakes National Park in 2013.

- NZ Herald

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