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Local SAR teams help in bush search


Five Ōtaki district Search and Rescue personnel were part of a three-days mission to find a man lost recently near Levin.

The man was reported missing late on Monday, February 28, after phoning his family to say he didn’t know where he was.

Experienced Search and Rescue responder Jonah Pritchard is winched out of the bush by an Air Force helicopter crew member after the search was over.

Photo courtesy of Jonah Pritchard.

Horowhenua Search and Rescue was advised and several teams responded. Among them were experienced Ōtaki SAR members Jonah Pritchard, who joined the search that evening, and Rob Bigwood, who was part of the incident management team.

Others from Ōtaki included Charlie Simpson, Bronwyn Doar and Fred Groen, for whom it was their first major rescue. Mike Thompson of Te Horo also joined in.

Jonah says the man had gone into the bush from Poads Road, which is the main Levin access point to the Tararua Ranges. He intended to go for a day walk. Somehow, however, he lost his bearings and veered from the tracks.

The man, aged 72, had wet weather gear, but was not well equipped for a night in the bush.

He couldn’t be found that night. A total of 14 SAR teams, comprising 36 members from Horowhenua, Wellington and Palmerston North, became involved in the search, along with nine police personnel. Air Force NH90 helicopters flew the teams in and out of the bush.

Weather was changeable throughout the three-day search, including heavy rain, drizzle and overcast conditions at various stages.

“It was a bit cold and wet at times, but at least it wasn’t winter with snow,” Jonah says. “Fortunately it wasn’t an alpine search – most of it was in lowland bush.”

Searchers stayed mainly in huts, but others had to camp out for the night.

Eventually the man was found by family members late on Wednesday evening. He had dropped down off the main tracks near a creek and had settled there waiting for help. There was no cellphone reception in the area.

“Thankfully it was a good outcome,” Jonah says.




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Local SAR teams help in bush search




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