Aussie soldiers joined search for missing hunter

Murray Horsfield, who fell to his death while out hunting in tributaries of the lower Dart River...
Murray Horsfield, who fell to his death while out hunting in tributaries of the lower Dart River near Glenorchy. Photo: Gofundme
Australian soldiers came out in force to help search for a former comrade who fell to his death while on a hunting trip near Glenorchy.

Search and Rescue Otago Lakes coordinator Senior Sergeant John Fookes, of Queenstown, said Murray Horsfield, of Alexandra, had left for a trip in the Dart River catchment on February 11.

When Mr Horsfield did not get back as planned on the evening of the 13th, his wife Tianna reported him missing the next morning, Snr Sgt Fookes said.

As soon as the report was received, a search was initiated in the lower Dart River area which involved staff from police, Land Search and Rescue (LandSar) and the Department of Conservation.

LandSar deployed assets including search dogs, alpine cliff rescue teams and swift-water searchers who were supported by aircraft.

Extensive areas were covered by ground and air-sniffing dogs during the first afternoon and they continued to comb the search area for the next several days, without success.

Based on scenarios known to searchers and Mr Horsfield’s intentions, there were extensive areas where he might have gone, Snr Sgt Fookes said.

Searchers focused on elevated routes, looking for any sign of Mr Horsfield.

Several areas of interest were identified, but attempts to locate him were initially inconclusive.

As time went on police were able to focus their search efforts, and eventually Mr Horsfield was found in a watercourse on Sunday afternoon by an Alpine Cliff Rescue team.

"It appears he suffered a fall from height," Snr Sgt Fookes said.

Stuff reports he fell more than 50 metres.

During the search, members of Mr Horsfield’s immediate and extended family flew over from Australia.

Mr Horsfield was a former member of the Australian army and a couple of dozen of his former colleagues, some former members and others active in duty, came over on their own initiative and were incorporated into the LandSar effort.

"It was quite something," Snr Sgt Fookes said.

Some of the terrain searched was particularly difficult and included a large number of hazards including huge chunks of rock, swamps and caves.

Snr Sgt Fookes paid tribute to the persistence and the long hours worked by searchers.

Mr Horsfield had been carrying two forms of communication, including an inReach beacon, and police encouraged anyone going into the backcountry to do the same, Snr Sgt Fookes said.

The coroner will investigate Mr Horsfield’s death.

 - oscar.francis@odt.co.nz

 

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