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Personal locator beacon ensures swift rescue of lost tramper

A GPS locator beacon helped Police and a helicopter locate a lost Belgian man in the Tongariro National Park yesterday.

The 18-year-old, who is on holiday in New Zealand for four months, set out at 6:30am on January 21 to hike the 43km Tongariro Northern Circuit.

He successfully negotiated his way from Whakapapa Village to Mangatepopo, then over Red Crater and into the Oturere Valley – but then got lost.

“He missed the Oturere Hut and could not find the track again amongst the rocky landscape,” says Senior Constable Barry Shepherd of Taupo Police.

In the early afternoon, the man activated his inReach SOS beacon, triggering an alert at the International Emergency Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Texas.

The information was then passed to the Rescue Co-ordination Centre of NZ (RCCNZ), which then passed it to Taupo Police.

“The rescue crew found the man relatively easily, despite him blending well with his surroundings, thanks to the GPS location received from his beacon,” Senior Constable Shepherd says.

“Despite being very thirsty – he guzzled a bottle of water the rescuers gave him – he was in good shape.

He was flown back to the start of the track, near the Chateau.”

Senior Constable Shepherd says this shows the importance of carrying a personal locator beacon when tramping.

“Because this young man had activated a beacon, we knew exactly where he was and were able to reach him quickly and easily.

If you become lost or injured, and you are not exactly sure where you are, this can mean precious time is wasted which puts your safety at risk.”

Following the rescue of the Belgian man, the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter crew then went to Emerald Lakes to uplift an injured Macau woman, who was flown to Taupo Hospital.

Immediately prior to the Belgian man’s rescue, the helicopter had rescued an injured American woman from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

She was taken to Rotorua Hospital for treatment.


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