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Beacon proves worth for snow-blinded tramper

MEDIA RELEASE Date: 20 December 2004

Beacon proves worth for snow-blinded tramper

The Rescue Coordination Centre coordinated the rescue of a snow-blinded tramper this afternoon in the southwest of the South Island.

The 22-year-old woman was on a three-day-long tramp with her mother and father in the Heath Mountains, when she woke this morning to find herself snow-blinded. Her parents’ activated their personal locator beacon, which sent a distress signal by satellite to the RCCNZ. Her father was partially snow-blinded.

The RCCNZ sent a Southern Lakes rescue helicopter with a paramedic on board to search for the beacon. The helicopter crew found the three trampers at 2pm.

RCCNZ search and rescue coordinator Dave Wilson said the speed and success of the woman’s rescue was largely due to the family doing the right thing by carrying a distress beacon with them.

“Had the trampers not had the beacon, they would have had no way of notifying anyone, as there is no cell phone coverage down there. It’s very rugged country, and they had another 25 kilometres to walk to their destination at Lake Manapouri.

“It’s a good reminder to other trampers that a personal locator beacon can be a life saver. The best kind of beacon is one that operates on a 406 MHz frequency. The position information is more accurate, and from 2009 only these types of beacons will be detected by satellite, which in this particular case was the only means of notification,” he said.

The family was tramping from Lake Hauroko to West Arm, Lake Manapouri. The woman’s sight began deteriorating on Saturday.

The family was flown to Lake Te Anau, for medical treatment.


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