Missing tramper's friends hopeful

David Palmer
David Palmer
The search for Dunedin tramper David Palmer entered its fourth day yesterday with the spirits of his friends boosted by knowledge police and survival experts remained confident he still could be found alive.

Senior Sergeant Tony Woodbridge, of Oamaru, yesterday said some SAR teams who had worked over the past two days had been stood down from the search in the Ahuriri Valley near Omarama, but that did not constitute a scaling down of the operation, as there were still six teams in the field.

Up to 60 personnel were involved with the search, after the arrival on Tuesday of a NZ Fire Service command truck, along with an RNZAF Iroquois helicopter and seven army personnel, Snr Sgt Woodbridge said.

Although originally the search focused on a 200sq km area in the vast Ahuriri Valley Conservation Park, searchers yesterday focused on a specific area of the Dingleburn Track, following a sighting of the missing 53-year-old on Saturday.

Senior Sergeant Jason McCoy, of Oamaru, said SAR teams on the ground had been conducting a foot search, helped by Search and Rescue dogs.

By yesterday, Mr Palmer had been missing for four nights.

New Zealand Mountain Safety Council bushcraft programme manager Chris Owens said although he did not know how well provisioned Mr Palmer was, it would still be possible for the University of Otago librarian to survive for several nights, even if only lightly equipped.

"If anyone is compromised, we would suggest that they stay still rather than keeping on the move. It is much easier for search and rescue people to locate anyone that way.

"We advise that they get some sort of shelter.

"Either they find one like a little rock bivvy or create one with rocks around them and use; fern, punga, whatever they can."

Staying out of the wind could also prove vital to survival.

The search is scheduled to restart today.

Oamaru teacher Mike Gray worked with Mr Palmer on the 1999 Oamaru Victorian heritage celebrations committee, and said he was a "very organised" individual, who was also good under pressure.

"I'd say he is still hanging in there," Mr Gray said.

- andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz


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