Narrow escape for cyclist swept into river

This bicycle was found in a  flooded West Coast river early yesterday. Photo: NZ Police
This bicycle was found in a flooded West Coast river early yesterday. Photo: NZ Police
A 60-year-old cyclist who was swept into a raging torrent near the top of the West Coast Wilderness Trail on Tuesday night was lucky to escape with his life.

He was then cared for by a Good Samaritan until rescue arrived yesterday.

As severe rain hit late on Tuesday afternoon, police, rescue helicopter and search and rescue teams were primed and on stand-by to help seven people reported to be in trouble due to conditions in three different locations.

West Coast Land Search and Rescue Constable Jim Marsh, of Ross, said three hunters in the Whataroa River Valley had called for help, three kayakers traversing the Toaroha and Styx rivers were reported overdue, and a cyclist on the Tour Aotearoa was missing in the Kawhaka section of the wilderness trail.

According to NZCC West Coast Rescue Helicopter staff, the cyclist had a very narrow escape near the McPherson swing bridge on Tuesday night, after he was washed about 50m down a stream, breaking his ankle in the process.

Rescue helicopter crew member Stu Drake said the man managed to clamber out of the floodwater.

‘‘Getting bowled downstream and getting out, that’s where luck plays a part,’’ Mr Drake said.

Mr Marsh said the cyclist had been carrying his bike across a weir when he got into trouble.

‘‘The bike wheels dipped into the water and the force of the water knocked him off balance and over the edge. He was washed downstream for 50m before he had to let go of the bike. It carried on down the creek and he managed to get to safety.’’

He was reported missing by his companions on the tour about 7pm.

A search dog team from Hokitika found his bike at 2.30am yesterday, 600m downstream from the weir, Mr Marsh said.

Mr Drake said the injured cyclist was very lucky that he encountered another traveller who had also been caught by rising waters, but had a tent to shelter from the storm.

The alarm was raised about 8.30am yesterday and by the time the helicopter flew into the area half an hour later, the pair were sitting outside the tent having breakfast.

Mr Marsh said that after the tracker dog had found the bike ‘‘we were starting to think it was not going to be a good end result’’.

The rescue helicopter flew into the Toaroha River area behind Kokatahi about 7pm on Tuesday after three kayakers were reported overdue.

Mr Marsh said luckily the kayakers had got out of the water ‘‘right in the middle of the storm’’ and they eventually ‘‘bush-bashed’’ their way out to the road end.

At the same time police, were responding to a beacon activation from the Whataroa Valley, where three hunters were concerned about the rapidly rising waters.

A helicopter rescue was mounted just before the weather really turned early in the evening. 

-By Brendon McMahon


What I want to know is why was the guy going through the weir in a "raging torrent"?

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