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‘Luckiest man in NZ’ rescued in chance encounter

The West Branch of the Matukituki Valley. Photo: Pluies/Creative Commons

A tramper with a suspected broken leg has been rescued in a serendipitous turn of events after another tramper nearby set-off a personal locator beacon (PLB) in an unrelated incident.

The tramper had become injured at the head of the West Branch of the Matukituki Valley in Mt Aspiring National Park on March 8. He was unable to walk and was facing a long night out in the bush.

Southern Lakes Helicopters pilot Sam Innes said the man was well-equipped, but didn’t have a personal locator beacon.

By chance, another tramper at the nearby Liverpool Hut had become distressed and activated a PLB at 7.15pm, but then turned it off, which meant the rescue helicopter was unable to pinpoint her location when they reached the valley. Innes said the woman had gone beyond her abilities and had “given herself quite a fright”.

While trying to locate the woman, the helicopter pilot saw the injured man shining his torch light nearby and rescued him at 9pm.

“He is probably the luckiest man in New Zealand,” Innes said. “It’s amazing that we just happened to be in that area.”

Innes then landed at Liverpool Hut in search of the person who activated the PLB and found the woman, who was uninjured.

The pair were taken to Te Anau at 10.40pm and the injured man was transferred to Lakes District Hospital in Queenstown, while police ensured the woman was safe and had somewhere to stay.

Rescue Coordination Centre NZ mission coordinator Geoff Lunt said the trampers were very fortunate to be rescued.

“We urge everyone going into the bush to have a registered beacon with them, and make sure their emergency contacts know about their intended route,” Lunt said.

“By pure good luck, the one distress beacon between two people in different places saw both rescued.”