Missing tramper 'ill-equipped'

A Czech tramper who went missing on the inland pack track between Fox River and Punakaiki on Saturday was "ill-equipped and ill-experienced", say police.

Jiri Dohnal, 27, walked to the Fox River caves with two compatriots on Saturday, then decided to complete the inland pack track alone, said police search and rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Sean Judd.

Mr Dohnal failed to return by 7pm Saturday as planned and the alarm was sounded Sunday morning.

A helicopter found him at Dilemma Creek about 2pm on Sunday. He was trying to retrace his steps to Fox River, because the pack track was blocked by storm debris, Mr Judd said.

He had spent a miserable night in the open lightly clad, with no shelter or food, and was hypothermic. He had swapped his tramping boots for sandals to stop his boots getting wet.

Mr Judd said Mr Dohnal was extremely pleased to see his rescuers, because he was becoming weak and having difficulty walking. "He was cold, tired, wet and hungry."

The pack track was not a casual walk and there had been a number of fatalities in that area.

About 10 search and rescue volunteers, as well as police, had been called out for the search. Some of them had been working all weekend following the Buller storms and were still trying to fix damage to their own homes, Mr Judd said.

- By Lee Scanlon of the Westport News

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