The New Zealand Defence Force has rescued a 29-year-old Dutch tramper stranded by heavy snow on Mount Taranaki since Thursday.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopter, from the Ohakea-based No.3 Squadron, battled strong winds and a thick layer of cloud to rescue the tramper this morning.
“It was only in our second attempt that we were able to find a nice, open area where we could land,” Flight Lieutenant Chris Ross, the NH90 captain, said.
“The man was cold and hungry but otherwise fine. He was certainly chuffed to see us and he was able to walk to the aircraft on his own. We gave him a blanket and lollies and turned on the heater as soon as he got on board,” FLTLT Ross said.
The man had climbed the mountain on Thursday for a day’s tramping but was unable to return because of poor weather conditions, including heavy snow. He spent two freezing nights at Syme Hut, a Department of Conservation cabin that is about 2000 metres from the foot of the mountain.
He had been contacted by police authorities, and the police sought assistance from the NZDF because there were no search and rescue helicopters available in the area.
“We are glad that our crew had been able to find the tramper and bring him to safety. The tracks are covered in ice and heavy snow, so there was no way he could have got out of there on his own,” FLTLT Ross said.
“It’s nice to spend long weekends with family but duty comes first. If there’s a successful rescue attempt, it makes it so much more worthwhile.”
Group Captain Nick Olney, the Acting Air Component Commander, said the successful rescue attempt spoke to the skills of the aircrew.
“I’d like to commend our team for getting the job done successfully. This is a positive outcome for the individual, his family and the community,” he said.
The versatility of the NH90 helicopter made it suitable for a range of missions, including search and rescue, military operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, GPCAPT Olney said.
The RNZAF NH90 medium-utility helicopters and the P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft have flown more than 170 flying hours on 20 search and rescue missions in New Zealand and the south-west Pacific since January. .
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