Dramatic afternoon for raft rescuers

Spotting an upside-down raft and then searching for its occupants made for a much more eventful afternoon than a group of teenage paddlers near Queenstown had expected.

In the end, everyone on the Kawarau River emerged safe and well on Saturday, but some were given a significant fright.

A police spokeswoman said the incident happened about 3.30pm.

"All and sundry responded.

"Ambulance, police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Search and Rescue, the Otago and Queenstown rescue helicopters — quite a few different folk headed to the scene.

"But by 3.55pm, all seven people were out of the water and accounted for and none of them appeared to be injured.

"It was a lucky escape.

"It all seemed to resolve itself perfectly fine, but it was a bit dramatic there for a time."

Will Nelson (19) was not among the seven, but he and four friends were nearby.

They saw the upturned raft and then a woman drifted past in the river.

One of the paddlers helped her to the river bank.

She told them other people were missing.

The teens went to the other side of the river and ran up a bank. They saw a group that had managed to get out.

But that left one person unaccounted for — the man who was their guide.

He was fine, too, and had apparently gone off to get help, Mr Nelson said.

He understood the group was from down south and that the raft tipped over in rapids.

Mr Nelson is a first-year Massey University (Wellington) creative media and production student and is back in the region after examinations.

He was with friends from Alexandra and Queenstown.

The rafting group appreciated the help provided by the teens, he said.

Mr Nelson said a rescue helicopter arrived about half an hour after the trouble began.

"I’m pretty certain everyone was OK by the time the chopper came."

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