New search planned for man missing since 2017

Swedish man Hans Christian Tornmarck was due out of Karangarua on May 17, 2017. Photo: Police
Swedish man Hans Christian Tornmarck was due out of Karangarua on May 17, 2017. Photo: Police
Police will renew a search for a missing Swedish hunter who disappeared in May 2017.

As dawn cracks open the last day of January 2020, helicopters will fly a team of volunteers from into the West Coast wilderness, as part of a huge search operation for deceased hunter Hans Christian Tornmarck.

The 27-year-old Swede went into the Karangarua Valley area, south of Fox Glacier, on May 12, 2017 and did not return.

Search and rescue teams tirelessly looked for the missing hunter, but called off the search after nearly two weeks, after only finding Tornmarck's campsite and sleeping bag.

West Coast Search and Rescue Sergeant Mark Kirkwood said it was time to find Tornmarck's remains.

"We want to try to bring him home for his friends and family."

Kirkwood has spent at least a year making extensive preparations for the recovery and said all of the planning took place in his and the team members' own time.

"I'd hate to think how many man hours we've spent on the search so far."

Those in the hand-picked SAR team are some of the most skilled operators in the West Coast, with LandSAR, Alpine Cliff Rescue, DoC, Urban search and rescue (USAR).

A trained doctor and members of Disaster Victim Identification Unit are also in the group along with four search dogs, Kirkwood said.

All are volunteering for the four-day search, in the punishing West Coast terrain, led by Kirkwood.

They believe Tornmarck's remains are likely to be in the area around Regina Creek, where he set off for a day of Thar hunting.
Search teams found the hunter's campsite and sleeping bag in Karangarua Valley in late May of 2017.

It's believed the Swede took his rifle, cooker and pack along with him into the bush.

"What he had left in his camp site gave us the belief that he went for a day hunt and he came to grief somewhere on the hill," Kirkwood said.

Tornmarck previously hunted in the area with his brother, had texted a hunting associate that he was heading into the area, and indicated the region on a map found in his car.
Kirkwood said he'd consulted with Thar hunting experts throughout the area who had indicated areas for his team to search.

Searching in late summer was a deliberate choice, Kirkwood said.

"The snow should've melted and there will be long daylight hours - we want to use as much daylight as we can."

But even for the "very fit" team, it will be tough going. Two other hunters have lost their lives in the area in the past three years.

"It's totally unforgiving" terrain, Kirkwood said.

"If you make a mistake, it normally won't have a good outcome in this area".

"Hopefully, he'll be coming out with us."

Tornmarck's mother and sister would travel from Sweden to see the recovery team head out and were "extremely hopeful" their loved one would be found, Kirkwood said.

He wanted to bring some closure to the family and those involved in Tornmarck's search.

"We do get personally involved, emotionally involved in the searches."

A hunter himself, Kirkwood said he'd had his share of close shaves, as every hunter did.

"But it could've been me," he said.

"It could've been my brother, father."

Hans Christian Tornmarck went hunting by himself on May 12. Photo: Police
Hans Christian Tornmarck went hunting by himself on May 12. Photo: Police
Preparation for the operation was extensive, using USAR's drone abilities and mapping expertise from Westland Regional Council's Geographic Information System (GIS).

Before the January 31 take-off, drone flights over the area will take video and thousands of photographs of the terrain, which will be analysed in the hope of spotting Tornmarck's camouflaged clothing or his rifle.

Kirkwood said that the original search efforts were heavily hindered by snowfall blanketing the area.

"Quite a bit of it was covered in snow... they could've walked right past him."

Tornmarck's remains will likely be flown back to the mainland via chopper if he is found.

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