A police officer has been found safe in the ranges near Otaki Forks this afternoon.
50-year-old Sgt Andy Brooke, an experienced search and rescue member, went into the ranges on Thursday to lay a trail for a future search and rescue exercise. He was reported overdue yesterday at 9pm last night (Friday, 6 May).
As well as appropriate clothing and food Sgt Brooke was carrying a GPS, a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) and a Spot-Me device. The beacon enables trampers to raise the alarm if they come to harm and the Spot-Me device also helps trampers to communicate their location and status.
He had activated his Spot-Me on Thursday afternoon to indicate all was well but no further contact was made after that time, so when he did not emerge as planned from the ranges there was immediate concern for his welfare.
Ten search and rescue teams involving Police and volunteers from Horowhenua, Palmerston North and Wellington were involved in the operation. An RNZAF Iroquois and rescue helicopters from Palmerston North and the Horowhenua also assisted.
At 2.40pm today his Spot-Me was activated alerting the Incident Management Team. His personal locator beacon was then also activated. Search and rescue teams were in the general area of the beacon and located him at a creek junction in the Waitewaewae River catchment, He and his dog were winched out by the RNZAF both tired, but in good health.
Following a debrief it appears that the route Sgt Brooke was following took longer than estimated. Although the weather was mild it was very wet and there was lots of windfall, making progress slow-going. He had utilised his Spot-Me on a number of occasions throughout Friday and today, to indicate he was safe. As far as he was aware the device was functioning well, however it seems none of the alerts until the one sent at 2.40pm today were received. At this stage it is not known why the technology failed to send a signal, it may have been due to canopy cover.
"It is incredibly fortunate that a signal finally was received. It enabled us to very quickly locate him and bring the rescue operation to an end. It demonstrates that even when someone is well-equipped with the best technology available, and is highly experienced there are significant risks attached to tramping. It could have been a very different outcome if he was not able to make contact with us," says Acting Inspector Brett Calkin.
Sgt Brooke said: "I just want to thanks to everyone who turned up and gave up their time. I was prepared for even longer in the bush with food and equipment, but was equally very pleased that I was able to alert them as to my location so they could extract me."
Media enquiries should be referred to Communications Manager Kim Perks on 027 234 8256.