A 15-year-old boy was rescued from the Motatapu Gorge last night, after being trapped for more than three hours underneath a waterfall in the narrow river chasm near Glendhu Bay, Wanaka.

Emergency services and paramedics from the Otago Regional Rescue helicopter were still on site and treating the Middlemarch boy after he was winched from the river about 9.30pm, Wanaka LandSAR coordinator senior Constable Emma Fleming said last night.

About 15 members from the Wanaka LandSAR alpine cliff rescue team were involved in the rescue operation, Const Fleming said.

"He was winched out of the stream by the helicopter crew. How long he was in the water for is unsure at this stage. It's been at least three hours, given that is when we [started our operation]'' Const Fleming said.


There had been a number of people in the "busy'' Motatapu Gorge area yesterday afternoon, but details about how the boy got stuck and about initial rescue attempts by other people to help the trapped boy were not known, she said.

Otago Daily Times Wanaka bureau chief Marjorie Cook said a Glacier Southern Lakes helicopter crew, two scuba divers, worked alongside local emergency medical staff and Wanaka doctors were to provide assistance for the boy.

Paramedic crew and rescuers talked of the boy's incredible fighting spirit, as concerns about bis health escalated, after he spent more than three hours in the fast-flowing river chasm which is fed by mountain streams.

A massive emergency response from local LandSAR volunteers and emergency services had rushed to the scene to assist the boy, as he started to fade in the cold waters of the Motatapu, she said.

The boy was pulled from the water, but concerns for his health escalated as he started to succumb to the intense cold and shock of being submerged underwater for several hours.

The boy had fallen unconcious and efforts were made to resuscitate and stabilise him by paramedic crew, before he was transported by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital at about 10.45pm, Ms Cook said.

Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell said police were notified of the boy's predicament about 6.30pm, after initial attempts to extract him from the fast-flowing gorge by a group of about four people were unsuccessful.

"It's quite an issue to get the boy's ankle out. He's been stuck there in the water for about three hours, so is no doubt very cold and distressed,''


The Otago Regional Rescue helicopter was on standby to transfer the boy to Dunedin Hospital for treatment, Snr Sgt Grindell said.

The Motatapu Gorge is a popular river swimming hole for locals and also summer campers staying at the nearby Glendhu Bay Camping Ground.

Wanaka LandSAR chairman Phil Melchior said yesterday had been a ``bad day'' given the number of different incidents LandSAR members had responded to.

LandSAR members had ealier been called to the Motatapu Gorge to help a woman, aged in her 20s who dislocated her knee while jumping from rocks into the river.

Meanwhile, a tandem skydiving instructer sustained multiple fractures after he hit the ground in a heavy parachute landing at Wanaka Airport, yesterday afternoon. The injured man was transported by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital, Ms Cook said.

- Otago Daily Times