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It has been a club rule for at least a decade that all trips include a PLB but they had never activated one until Graham Sutcliffe's seven-day trip to Whirinaki Forest Park. Happily, this was not to get help for the Wanganui party but for another tramper in distress. On January the 9th 2014 seven Wanganui trampers from the Wanganui Tramping club on a regular January trip reached Upper Whirinaki Hut from Upper Te Hoe Hut in early afternoon, having put off lunch because of rain and wanting to eat under shelter. After they had been there about an hour, two children approached the hut from the opposite direction. They said their father had broken his leg and was beside the Whirinaki River, about 15 minutes away. He needed a splint, they said.
Juliet, a retired nurse, and others set off along the track to find them, taking the PLB, the first-aid kit and wood for a splint. They found the injured man propped up by a tree. He was Bernard, a GP from Murupara, and with him were his wife, Britta, also a GP, and Mirak, a visitor from the Czech Republic who was travelling with them. Bernard's lower leg, broken when he caught his leg in a hole, was already expertly bandaged and splinted. It was clear Bernard couldn't move, so Juliet and Britta activated the PLB. As they couldn't be sure the signal would be received, the question was how to get Bernard to the hut if no help came. He was a large man and about five stream crossings would be required. Using a large hessian bag at the hut as a stretcher was Plan B.
More than an hour went by and it had started to rain again when Taupo's Greenlea Rescue helicopter appeared, circled Bernard, then landed near the hut. Tony the medic walked to the river where he checked Bernard out, fitted a harness and guided the chopper into position overhead. A wire rope was dropped and Bernard was winched up into the chopper and taken to Rotorua Hospital, where he was operated on. The lesson for the Wanganui trampers was that carrying a PLB is vital. If they had not been there, the Conlon party would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to carry Bernard to the hut. He was extremely grateful for the help and said he would get his own PLB. More than 20,000 PLBs are now registered in New Zealand, compared to fewer than 9000 in 2010. Wanganui Tramping Club.
Thank you ACR!
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