Trouser-less, hypothermic man serenades Greenlea rescue helicopter staff after Urewera Ranges rescue
9 June 2018
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After four days without food, a trouser-less man with severe hypothermia was rescued by the Greenlea Rescue Helicopter yesterday and thanked them with a song.
The helicopter was dispatched to the Urewera Ranges to an active locator beacon yesterday.
The ranges were misty and cloudy and there was reduced visibility but a man was spotted, just before 4pm, in a clearing near a hut about 150m from the beacon's initial co-ordinates.
"What from above initially looked like a man with possibly a rolled ankle, transpired to be a trouser-less boot-clad man with severe hypothermia, huddling into the foetal position - and a remarkable tale of survival," a statement released by the rescue helicopter said.
Otherwise uninjured, the man appeared to have been in the bush for several weeks after becoming trapped by elevated river levels.
He had run out of food four days prior and was trying to make his way to safety when he was swept downstream trying to cross the river.
The man got back on to dry land and was making his way to the hut he was found near.
This required a second river crossing and he was swept downstream the cold river further.
Physically unable to get to the hut, the man activated his locator beacon.
After the rescue helicopter arrived the man was re-dressed in dry clothing and placed in a thermal, electric sleeping bag before being flown out to hospital with a very low body temperature.
The statement from Philips Search and Rescue Trust which operates the rescue helicopter said the man would not have survived much longer.
"Despite his initial condition and obvious confusion, later in the return flight we were thanked multiple times and serenaded with a delightful song from a man that 30 minutes earlier had resigned himself to dying next to that river, 20m from a hut, but unable to reach it," the statement said.
"Upon emerging from the murk and into the blue skies toward Taupō on our return flight, we were alerted to the wonderful views of Mt Cook and the southern alps."
Pilot Nat Every told the Herald the man, aged in his late 50s or early 60s had been hiking and appeared to be well equipped, apart from his lack of food.
He was found near Te Waiotukapiti Hut above the Waiau River, which was in flood.
Every believed the man had taken off his trousers to cross the river, then slipped into hypothermia. He doubted the man would have survived beyond last evening if he hadn't been found.
He was taken to Taupo Hospital. A hospital spokeswoman said the man was treated and discharged from the emergency department.
Immediately following that job, the Greenlea helicopter was dispatched directly toward Turangi to help a man with a serious laceration from a pane of glass. He was flown to Rotorua Hospital.