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Real Life Interrupts SAR Exercise

The Akatarawa Forest, between Upper Hutt and the Kāpiti Coast, was humming with activity over the weekend as Emergency Services’ staff and volunteers took part in Wellington District's annual Search and Rescue (SAR) Exercise.

The exercise provided an opportunity for participants to test their skills in a range of scenarios, try out new equipment, and develop their ability to work effectively with multiple agencies.

“It is important for Police and SAR volunteers to learn new skills and test ourselves in the environments and conditions which we are likely to encounter in a real search,” says Senior Constable Luke Taunton, of the Wellington District SAR team.

The real-life scenarios didn’t wait until the exercise was over.

Over the course of the three-day exercise, personnel were called to assist in two separate search and rescue incidents.

On Friday evening, Wairarapa SAR personnel deployed into the Tararua Ranges after an injured tramper activated their personal locator beacon from a hut.

With the assistance of the Westpac Helicopter, a team including a flight paramedic was dropped near the hut.

The tramper sustained a head injury and was taken to hospital.

On Sunday, SAR assisted Hutt Valley emergency services with the co-ordination and response to two people who had been swept out to sea at Wainuiomata Beach.

The Westpac Helicopter was deployed to locate and transport the individuals to safety.

Both were taken to hospital in a serious condition.

Senior Constable Taunton says the success of the two rescues demonstrates the value of SAR teams, who often put the needs of others first.

“Search and Rescue teams are here to help members of the community who may find themselves in desperate situations and needing urgent assistance," he says.

"This year’s training exercise went very well and it was pleasing to see the team kick into action and manage two separate SAR incidents skilfully.”

Although the weekend’s training centred around SAR events in a bush environment, teams are increasingly being used in urban environments.

Search and Rescue teams are often deployed to rescue injured trampers, mountain bike riders and others in need of assistance outdoors.

The training exercise involved Police SAR personnel, volunteers from Wellington Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR), staff from LandSAR, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Wellington Free Ambulance, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Amateur Radio and the Cross-Country Vehicle Club.

Wellington Police SAR and LandSAR would like to thank local Akatarawa residents for their patience over the weekend, with 4WD activity and frequent noise from helicopter movements in the valley.

A special thank you goes to the several landowners who permitted the use of their properties.

Police would also like to acknowledge the support of Upper Hutt City Council, which generously made Karapoti Park available.

© Scoop Media

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