Dog stays with dead farmer

By Peter de Graaf -
1 comment
Cliff Metcalfe.
Cliff Metcalfe.

The body of an 87-year-old farmer who went missing in rugged Far North bush was found after searchers spotted a dog which had stayed near his side all night.

The man was last seen about 1pm on Monday when he left home on his quad bike to check farm equipment on his Topps Access Rd property, just south of Kaeo.

Family, friends and neighbours began a search when neither he nor the dog returned. They called police when there was still no sign of the pair by 8pm.

The cattle dog, which was described as small and normally timid, was understood to belong to the man's daughter but followed him everywhere he went.

Police and Search and Rescue volunteers began a search of the area, described by a seasoned police officer as "extremely rugged" and "almost vertical", about 9.15pm. The search was called off at 3.30am yesterday when fog made it too dangerous to continue, then resumed about 7.30am.

When he was found, around noon yesterday, it took more than 20 people two hours to carry his body a distance of 150m back to where he had left his bike.

Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe, the head of Northland police Search and Rescue, said an extra six police and four LandSAR volunteers trained in cliff rescues joined the search yesterday morning, along with a Skywork helicopter.

It was thought the man had initially gone to check on his water supply when, after continuing upstream, he had slipped on rocks and fallen about 10m.

Searchers had been up to the water supply overnight but it was only in daylight, when rescuers pushed further upstream, that one of the team spotted a small black cattle dog. The dog then led searchers a short distance to the man's body down a steep bank.

Getting him out involved using ropes and pulleys to lower the stretcher down a series of waterfalls, each 2-4m in height. The man must have been extremely fit to get up there in the first place, Mr Metcalfe said.

"It's very, very steep country. It's almost vertical," he said.

The man's name would be released once all next of kin had been notified. It was an unfortunate outcome but the searchers were pleased to find him and return him to his family. The team had had great support from the community, with locals providing vehicles, food and hot drinks throughout the night. Kaeo and Kerikeri volunteer firefighters assisted in the search and provided a thermal imaging camera.

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