A coroner has concluded that two trampers found in the Tararua Forest Park died before a search-and-rescue mission to find them was launched.

Mykhailo (Michael) Stepura, 38, and Pavel (Paul) Pazniak, 32, died of hypothermia less than a kilometre from the Alpha Hut, where they were likely planning to stay, on Saturday evening, November 19, 2016.

The following day when Pazniak failed to show at Auckland Airport, his wife raised the alarm.

But Coroner Tim Scott said by this time, the men would have already been dead.


Both men were fit, and Pazniak had "significant tramping experience" in New Zealand, but the pair's decision to go tramping appeared to have been "rather last minute".

They were "reasonably well equipped" for an overnight tramp, with adequate food and sleeping bags.

But they were not prepared for the Tararua Range's' notoriously changeable weather of "strong winds and driving rain", lacking survival blankets and waterproof covers.

"They were thus unfamiliar with the terrain and the potential weather conditions that they might strike."

The men had no emergency locator beacon, maps, compass or torch.

When Pavel Pazniak, 32, from Auckland, failed to show at Auckland Airport on Sunday November 20, his wife raised the alarm. Photo / Supplied
When Pavel Pazniak, 32, from Auckland, failed to show at Auckland Airport on Sunday November 20, his wife raised the alarm. Photo / Supplied

They did have cellphones, however, performing simple tasks, like making phone calls, are often not possible for those in the later stages of hypothermia.

Coroner Scott's finding into the deaths were released on Monday and were based on evidence given in Masterton Coroners Court on April 17.

Stepura, an IT developer from Ukraine who lived in Lower Hutt, and Pazniak, a software developer from Belarus based in Auckland, had never tramped in the Tararuas before.


They intended to stay in a hut, probably Alpha Hut, on the Saturday night before they headed out of the bush the following day.

Pazniak's failure to arrive at Auckland airport on Sunday evening prompted his wife's call police.

Senior Constable Peter Cunningham said the search for the men was "considered to be urgent" but there "would have been difficulties" in launching a search at night, including flying the helicopter.

It was decided to review the situation at 8am the next day, Monday, November 21.

Cunningham located the men's vehicle in the car park at 6.45am, confirming they were still in the bush, and launched the search.

Another tramper was made aware of the missing men by the search and rescue helicopter crew.

A short while later, the tramper stumbled upon Stepura's body, somewhere in between Alpha Hut and Mount Hector.

He was "lying on his back" on the track with his pack a few metres away.

The tramper phoned 111 and the helicopter was directed to his location.

Pazniak was located about 200m down the slope from Stepura.

"He must either have sought that position in an attempt to get some degree of shelter or he tumbled there."

It was likely the men "had no idea" how close they were to safety, less than 1km from a hut, when they died.

Without a torch, the pair would have been "struggling and fumbling in the dark for at least the last part of the tramp."

No drugs or alcohol were found to be in the men's blood, a post mortem revealed.

Photos taken of each of the men, presumably by each other, showed them posing in "obviously strong wind".

Cunningham said it was not possible to identify one thing that went wrong to cause the tragedy -- it was a chain of events.

"The police response and the good police efforts to locate Paul and Michael alive were always doomed to fail," the coroner wrote.

Coroner Scott did not make any recommendations, since signage on the track was already adequate, according to police.