The bodies of a man and a woman believed to be those of missing trampers Dr Seddon Bennington and Marcella 'Rosie' Jackson have been found by a search and rescue team in the Tararua ranges.
The first discovery was made at 10.52am by a team of Levin Land SAR volunteers and police, one of the first teams to go into the ranges yesterday and to stay in Kime Hut overnight.
The body of a woman was then found approximately 15 minutes later about 300 metres away. They were about 1km away from Kime Hut, which is believed to have been their intended destination on Saturday but appear to have strayed from the track and were in the area known as Bridge Peak.
The area is open alpine terrain with rocks and tussock and covered in snow. It is too early to speculate on the exact circumstances that led to the deaths. There are no obvious signs of a fall or accident and it appears a strong possibility that they were overcome by the weather conditions.
Their bodies have been airlifted from the area by a commercial helicopter engaged in the search operation to Palmerston North Hospital.
Family members had been waiting at Levin Police Station for news, had visited the command centre that was managing the operation and had been providing the useful background information about Dr Bennington and Mrs Jackson. They have been notified and are being supported by Victim Support.
Formal identification will now take place and the matter has been referred to the coroner.
The search and rescue teams have all been stood down and have been either airlifted or made their way from the ranges on foot.
Inspector Mark Harrison said: "The families are understandably devastated and they are very much our priority at this stage. I must, however, also thank those volunteers and police who were involved for their efforts. The conditions up there were atrocious to the extent that we were advised that we needed searchers with alpine expertise so we carefully picked the teams who were deployed.
"I am extremely impressed with the work of the search teams and know that the families appreciate the efforts that have been made by everyone. They were in a very difficult and challenging situation and remained focused and never lost hope that they would bring Dr Bennington and Mrs Jackson. Tragically it wasn't to be."
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