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Injured woman rescued from glacier after beacon set off

Injured woman rescued from glacier after beacon set off

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) says having a personal locator beacon helped saved the life of a woman climber overnight. The woman had been critically injured on a South Island glacier and urgently needed medical attention.

RCCNZ received the alert from the registered beacon at 8.45pm last night, and search and rescue officers immediately spoke to the emergency contact people for the beacon’s owners – a group of three people climbing in the South Island’s Arrowsmith Range. The two men, from Christchurch and Wellington, and a Christchurch woman had set off on Friday and were due to complete their trip yesterday.

A Westpac Rescue Helicopter with night vision goggles left from Christchurch at 9.30pm, carrying a paramedic on board. The climbers were located about an hour later, but their position on the Cameron Glacier near the upper reaches of the Rakaia River was too tight to allow winching and the helicopter had to land instead.

Both of the woman climber’s legs were broken and the rescuers carried her for about 45 minutes in darkness and through snow and ice to the helicopter. MetService said winds in the area were at 40 to 50 kilometres an hour. During the rescue, an avalanche occurred about 200 metres away from the group.

The woman was flown directly to Christchurch Hospital for treatment, while the two men elected to remain on the glacier overnight and organise private helicopter transport out of the area today.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Officer Chris Henshaw said the incident was a stark illustration of how carrying a personal locator beacon saves lives. “Had the party not been able to quickly make contact with search and rescue authorities, there is no doubt that the woman could have died, given the environment and the extent of her injuries,” Mr Henshaw said.

“This rescue provides yet another example of the importance of people carrying a PLB when they set out on foot or by boat,” he said. “Registering the beacon means the owner’s emergency contacts can provide details of the planned trip and rescuers can get to them faster.”

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