The winter wonderland may have brought some fun and awe to many in Central District, but two children and a snowboarder had a lucky escape yesterday (Tuesday, 26 July).
In the first incident a 5-year-old girl and her 8-year-old brother were playing in the snow by the house of a family-owned farm in the Paparangi area of Whanganui. Around 5.30pm the mother of the children contacted Police frantic that the two children could not be found.
By 7pm a 10-strong team of Police search and rescue personnel and local LandSAR had been organised along with a police search dog and helicopter. Just as the team arrived at the farm, the father and a family friend located the children on a ridge approximately 400m from the house.
The children had wandered off from the house and the young girl had climbed a tree and become stuck. Her brother had been unable to get her down from the tree so they had decided to sit it out.
Senior Sergeant Darcy Forrester said: "This was just a case of children being children enjoying a rare snowfall and going on an adventure. There was a significant risk that the children could have perished if they had remained lost all night in such low temperatures so we're very thankful that they were located before we had to start the search."
In a second incident a cliff rescue team have spent the night on Mount Egmont after assisting a 30-year-old snowboarder whose attempts to enjoy the polar blast went awry. He became disorientated and found himself on the eastern side of the mountain unable to find a route out. He contacted Police via his mobile telling them he felt hypothermic and nauseous from exhaustion and his battery was running low on his phone.
He told Police he had some limited food and water supplies and thermals and he was clearly growing concerned for his safety.
Police advised that they communicate by text to save his battery and deployed a local helicopter. Through text commentary the man was able to assist Police with his rough location and around 5.30pm the helicopter crew spotted him from the air. They dropped off a team of three from the Taranaki Alpine Cliff Rescue Squad so they could walk in to the lost snowboarder. A second team of four were dropped by the roadside and walked to a local hut to wait in case they were needed. The snow made attempts to reach the snowboarder slow going.
The alpine team eventually reached the snowboarder who was described as warm, dry and comfortable and in much better spirits once he had the company of the rescue team. An RNZAF Iroquois deployed around 10pm last night and managed to extract the snowboarder who was taken to New Plymouth Airport and then transferred to hospital to be assessed. Unfortunately the weather then closed in and prevented RNZAF from returning for the rescue team. The Iroquois has returned this morning and further attempts are currently underway to extract them.
Sgt Jeff McGrath said: "For a snowboarder he was well-equipped and did the right thing by notifying us when he did. If there is a safety message to learn from this experience it is that commercial ski-fields exist for a reason and people should think very carefully before taking to the slopes and going off-piste alone."