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'Lucky to be alive': Hunter found with serious injuries

Author
Whanganui Chronicle,
Publish Date
Fri, 27 Oct 2023, 4:51pm
The hunter was found face down and motionless halfway down a steep hill. (Photo / Colin Wright)
The hunter was found face down and motionless halfway down a steep hill. (Photo / Colin Wright)

'Lucky to be alive': Hunter found with serious injuries

Author
Whanganui Chronicle,
Publish Date
Fri, 27 Oct 2023, 4:51pm

A 59-year-old man is “lucky to be alive” after going missing on a hunting trip at Taumatatahi - a two-hour drive northwest of Whanganui.

Sergeant Colin Wright, head of Whanganui Search and Rescue, said a major search and rescue operation was mounted when the man failed to return home on October 14.

While hunting with friends on a private block, they went in one direction on foot and he went in another on his quad bike.

When the man didn’t return that evening, friends and locals started a search and contacted police.

Wright said Detective John Ferguson worked through the night, planning and preparing for a search through challenging terrain at first light on October 15.

“The Whanganui Police SAR Squad and seven volunteers from Whanganui and Taranaki LandSAR, including a LandSAR dog and handler, drove to the private block and started searching on the Sunday,” Wright said.

“They were well-supported from the Whanganui Police Station by Constable Janna Benson and Senior Constable Keith Thomson, who were the incident management team liaising with the DCC (district command centre), the man’s family, and the Rescue Coordination Centre NZ.

“It was fortunate that the landowner is a pilot for a local firm, and he had flown first thing on Sunday morning but hadn’t found anything.”

The helicopter deployed again, this time with three spotters.

An extensive aerial search was conducted of likely locations.

Eventually, a fresh pair of deer’s hind legs were seen on the ground in a location where it wasn’t thought the hunter would have been.

“A short distance away and halfway down a very steep slope, we found the hunter lying face down and motionless,” Wright said.

“The pilot dropped off the crewman and I, so we could assess the man and upon reaching him, we discovered he was still alive but in a very bad way.

“Every minute counted, and we contacted the Taranaki Rescue helicopter, which arrived just over an hour later. It was a very emotional time when we got to him and saved him.”

The rescue helicopter team winched down a paramedic who assessed the hunter, who was suffering from hypothermia as well as a fractured neck and ribs, a severely fractured leg and a dislocated knee.

He also had severe back injuries, a collapsed lung and air around his heart and in his chest cavity.

He was taken to Whanganui Hospital before being transported to Wellington Hospital, where he remains in a stable but critical condition.

Wright said the man’s quad bike was a long way away from where he was found and it appeared he had fallen down a steep slope while trying to retrieve a deer.

“He is lucky to be alive and is on the road to a long and slow recovery.

“While his injuries are severe, the SAR teams and I are thankful to have found him alive and his partner was very supportive of police and the LandSAR volunteers.

“She thanked us for the professional and caring teamwork she witnessed.”

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