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Beacons make for busy Labour Weekend for RCCNZ

Beacons make for busy Labour Weekend for RCCNZ
25 October 2016

A busy weekend of rescues managed by the Rescue Coordination Centre NZ highlights the benefits of carrying distress beacons.

The RCCNZ operations room was kept fully occupied with a series of beacon activations resulting in successful rescues – and five inadvertent activations also followed up.

On Friday evening a mother tramping with her two sons, aged 10 and 12, on the walk from Kaitoke to Alpha Hut track in the Tararuas, activated her beacon when the boys became exhausted in the cold wet conditions.

Neither the Westpac Rescue Helicopter nor a Police Land Search and Rescue team could reach the trio because of weather conditions, and the family had endure an uncomfortable night on the track before being picked before 8am on Saturday morning.

At around 6pm on Saturday afternoon, a woman walking with her husband on the Mt Aurum basin track from Skippers, near Queenstown, suffered a serious broken leg and was rescued by a Heli Works helicopter near Dynamo Hut after activating a hired distress beacon.

On Sunday night, a trio of Australians on a skiing tour in the Southern Alps messaged a contact in Australia via a spot tracking beacon seeking emergency help, and the RCCNZ was contacted by a Franz Josef helicopter operator.

With light failing, the trio, who had become disorientated in low cloud, were located by the Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Cliff Rescue Team, onboard a Helicopter Line helicopter and flown to Chancellor hut, from where they planned to continue their tour.

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Yesterday, three trampers from the Wellington region were rescued after becoming lost 3.5km west of Mt Hector in the Tararuas. Tired and cold, they were winched aboard the Westpac Rescue helicopter shortly after 5pm, within an hour of activating their beacon.

“In all of these incidents, a distress beacon has at the very least saved a lot of time in getting people to safety,” RCCNZ search and rescue mission coordinator Tracy Brickles said. “Potentially it has also saved lives.

“A beacon should be a standard piece of equipment if you are going off the beaten track regularly, and hiring a beacon can be done relatively cheaply by those venturing out less frequently.”

Anyone working in remote areas should also carry a beacon – a farm worker was rescued this morning (25 October) from farmland between Wanganui and Ohakune when he activated his distress beacon after falling from a horse and dislocating his shoulder.

The importance of registering beacons was highlighted by five accidental activations received over the weekend, either through mishandling or malfunction of the beacon.

“They were easily dealt with because the beacons were registered and we could contact the owner of the beacon direct,” Tracy said. “If the beacons had not been registered a helicopter or other rescuers may have been tasked to determine the reason for the activation – wasting valuable time and resources, which may have been needed for other rescues.”

Registration of beacons is free on the website

If an accidental activation occurs, RCCNZ should be called immediately 0508 472 269.

Also over the wekend, six small vessels broke down around the country and required assistance from other nearby vessels or the Coast Guard.

“This is a good time to check all equipment and maintenance of boats before taking them out on the water,” Tracy said.


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