US tramper swept away by swollen river rescued

An American tackling Te Araroa Trail has been rescued after being swept downstream in a swollen river.

And he is lucky to be alive after his locator beacon alerted authorities in Texas to his plight who then contacted New Zealand rescue services.

The tramper was walking south on the Te Araroa Trail through the Red Hills, in Mt Richmond Forest Park, on Tuesday morning and attempted to cross the Motueka River Right Branch in heavy rain, Senior Constable Reuben McCormack said.

"He was swept downstream by the rapid current, but fortunately managed to get himself out."

Stuck between two impassable rivers, he realised he needed help and activated his personal locator beacon.

"The model of locator beacon the hiker was using is also capable of sending and receiving text messages, meaning he could send a text to his local rescue service [in Texas] to say he needed help. The rescue service in Texas then informed the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand [RCCNZ]."

Due to the poor weather conditions a helicopter was not able to be deployed, and Police and LandSAR volunteers were called in to assist.

Four LandSAR volunteers hiked to the man's location on Tuesday afternoon, but were unable to cross the river to reach him.

"The LandSAR volunteers recognised immediately that the river was too dangerous for them to cross," McCormack said.

"They set up camp on their side of the river, while the hiker set up camp on his side. By Wednesday morning the river level had dropped significantly and the team was able to cross to the hiker, assist him across the river, and walk him out of the park."

The successful outcome demonstrated the importance of being prepared and carrying appropriate equipment.

"Because the hiker was carrying a personal locator beacon, he was able to immediately notify authorities of his location and his need for assistance. And he was then able to set himself up in his tent and sleeping bag for the night, and wait until the river was safe to cross," McCormack said.

"I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the LandSAR volunteers.

"They provide an invaluable service to our communities. Without their support, the hiker may have decided to try crossing the river again, leading to a tragic outcome."

The hiker has not been put off by his experience - once he has replenished his energy and food, he plans to continue his journey on the Te Araroa Trail.

For information about how to plan and prepare for hiking trips – whether you're heading out for a day trip or on a multi-day adventure - go to www.mountainsafety.org.nz .

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