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Stewart Island SAR exercise complete

"Stewart Island SAR exercise complete"

A large scale search and rescue exercise on Stewart Island over the weekend has been successfully completed, with the trial of new tracking technology proving useful in the challenging terrain.

Senior Sergeant Brian Benn, Southern District Police SAR Coordinator, says flawless organisation and use of the SARTRACK tool helped ensure all objectives for the training exercise were completed safely and successfully.

Live transmitters connected to the search and rescue teams provided detailed information on the whereabouts and search tracks of all teams, which could then be monitored from anywhere in the world.

“The tool gave us excellent feedback and in future, we hope to see it used more often in remote areas,” says Mr Benn.

“The main purpose of this exercise was to upskill our search and rescue volunteers and to try out new technology on a major search operation.

“Unfortunately no further evidence in relation to the disappearance of the hunter, Josef (Joe) Freiman, was found.”

Mr Freiman has been missing since 1991 after a hunting trip with three other friends and the exercise was based on the disappearance.

His next of kin were notified of the outcome of the exercise and they remain appreciative of the work which was carried out by NZSAR and New Zealand Police.

“These cold cases are excellent material to base SAR exercises on as they highlight how little information we often have to go on during these operations,” says Mr Benn.

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“They also provide an opportunity to take another look these historic cases with fresh eyes and the benefit of modern technology and search methods.”

While there were some minor technical issues, Mr Benn says these were quickly resolved.

“Considering the difficult terrain in the area, where walking just five metres is a challenge, this exercise was a model of best practice.”

The exercise was organised by Constable Dale Jenkins and the Stewart Island search and rescue team.

Although no evidence relating to Mr Freiman was found, a small pocket-knife was discovered on the second day by one of the searchers.

It had been lost a few days prior down a bank, when control measures were being placed in the area.

“It’s a testament to how thorough our search was when throughout a 10 square kilometre search area, that small pocket knife was found within the bush,” says Mr Benn.

“We’d also like to thank our hosts on Stewart Island for catering for the team of around 80 people.

They turned out a fantastic feast of local kaimoana for when the searchers got back to base.”

Throughout the weekend, a number of searchers spotted wild kiwi on the island - a small reward for the weekend’s trying conditions.


Police Media Centre

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