Man treks for hours after friend falls to his death

The friend of an experienced Queenstown hunter who plummeted 100m to his death scrambled down a steep cliff face then trekked for eight hours through rugged terrain to raise the alarm.

Constable William Parker, of Franz Josef, said the 55-year-old man, who has not been named, "lost his footing" on a steep slope in a rugged mountainous area near Fox Glacier about midday on Friday.

His younger companion, also of Queenstown, made his way down to the man, but found no signs of life, he said.

Unable to find mobile-phone coverage, the man trekked through rugged terrain for about eight hours to advise authorities, Const Parker said.

He said the man was uninjured, but was "obviously cut up" and not in a state to talk to media.

The men had been hunting and camping in the Cook Valley since Tuesday and were "extremely experienced and prepared", Const Parker said. The dead man's next of kin had been informed.

Solid Energy Rescue Helicopter pilot Stuart Farquhar, of Greymouth, yesterday said he flew to Fox Glacier about 7pm on Saturday with a Hokitika-based policeman, a paramedic/winch operator and the man who raised the alarm on board.

"The weather provided ideal flying conditions and we knew exactly where he was, because his friend had the co-ordinates stored in his handheld GPS," Mr Farquhar said.

The body was winched from the side of a mountain about 7.30pm and flown to Fox Glacier township.

About 1am yesterday, the body was flown to Greymouth in the same helicopter using night-vision.

Mr Farquhar said the dead man's companion would have had a difficult climb to reach the body. "It was a very steep face.

"He [the victim] looked like he had suffered very significant injuries from a fall," he said.

Const Parker said the incident was being treated as an accident.

Police are investigating the matter on behalf of the coroner, who will later decide whether an inquest will be held.



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