16 April 2008
National Park Drowning, release 4
The recovery of two bodies discovered early this morning in the Mangatepopo Gorge was completed shortly after first light today with the assistance of a Taupo based rescue helicopter.
This brings the total number of lives lost in this tragic incident to seven.
Following the rescue of five other members of the party all 12 members of the group are now accounted for.
Central Police District Operations Manager, Inspector Dave White, said the recovery operation was able to be completed with the assistance of the Taupo based Lion Foundation Rescue Helicopter.
The group was made up of 10 students and a teacher from Auckland's Elim Christian College and an instructor from the Ruapehu based Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre.
It is understood the students were doing a team building exercise traversing a river when they were over come by rapidly rising water levels in the gorge.
"It's too early to say exactly what happened as the matter in under investigation," said Mr White.
"All seven deaths have been referred to the Palmerston North based Coroner who has responsibility for this area."
The surviving members of the group were located after the alarm was raised and assisted out of the rugged terrain by Search and Rescue personnel.
It is understood that most of the deceased were located in close proximity to where the tragedy unfolded however the last two bodies were located approximately two kilometres downstream.
The surviving members of the party, including the instructor were recovering from their ordeal this morning while one student was admitted to Taupo Hospital with back injuries.
He had been located by searchers in a dazed and injured state however his injuries are not considered life threatening.
The remainder of the 40 strong Elim Christian College group returned back to Auckland via bus this morning.