Thursday, 12 August 2021 - 4:24pm

Teenagers' bush rescue is cautionary tale

3 min read

News article photos (1 items)

Senior Constable Peter Karam with some essentials for a bush trip, including a raincoat, fleece, food & fully charged cellphone.

Cold, wet and shivering uncontrollably, two young trail bike riders hunkered down in the bush of the Kaimai Ranges waiting to be rescued.

The 17-year-olds were cold, wet and borderline hypothermic when Waikato Police Search and Rescue officers found them on Sunday evening.

With a southwest chill biting the exposed range, had Senior Constable Peter Karam and Constable Paul Roberts not reached them when they did it could have been a different story.

The teenagers had set out in the morning for a daytime trial bike ride in the ranges between Tauranga and Waikato when one of their bikes broke down.

Around 6.20pm, Police received a call from ambulance reporting the pair were stuck in the bush with no warm clothing, torches or equipment for an overnight stay.

One of the boy’s phones had died and the other had three per cent battery, says Peter.

“These boys were fortunate they were able to use the remaining cellphone battery to get a call for help, much of the wilderness still does not have coverage.

"If these boys had to spend the night wet and exposed to the wind there was a very real possibility they may have died."

Using the ‘mobile locate’ function, officers were able to establish the pair’s estimated location on the track, about a kilometre from the top of the Waikato side.

“By the time we tried to get in contact the phone was completely flat and we had no contact with them,” says Peter.

Conditions on Sunday were chilly with a cold southwest wind and showers. Peter and Paul drove a four-wheel drive up Thompson’s Track before walking two hours into the bush to the teenagers' last known location.

Using the ‘sound-light’ technique the officers used whistles and flashed their torches until one of the boys called out in response.

They were found around 100 metres off the main track.

“They were huddled together on the side of a gravel track," says Peter. "One was shivering uncontrollably, huddled-up in a bad condition.”

Clad in light cotton clothing and shorts, the pair were both damp from rain and very cold and hungry.

“They were absolutely overwhelmed and grateful. If we hadn’t have got them out that night, there could potentially have been a fatality – they would have gone downhill pretty quickly.”

The officers gave them warm clothing, raincoats and hats to warm them up before giving them food and walking about half a kilometre to a sheltered area where the pair were given more food.

“Once they started moving and got out of the wind, were dry and had some food they perked up pretty quickly."

Together the four walked out of the bush to where the boys’ families were waiting with a hug around 1.30am.

“It’s a timely reminder for anyone going off the beaten track – to just always consider having the equipment to cater for a Plan B situation,” says Peter.

“People need to take enough gear with them so that if they had to spend a night in the conditions if something unforeseen such as a breakdown, or an injury were to occur.”

He advises always taking quality warm clothing, a raincoat even if it’s not raining, hat and gloves, extra food, a torch and a fully charged cellphone. A personal locator beacon is always useful, along with a small first aid kit, map and compass if going anywhere off track.

Peter says Thompson’s Track is a regularly used four wheel drive and motorbike track but it is severely rutted and in winter conditions can become perilous.