Beacon points way for 'text book' rescue

8th December 2010

A feverish teenager stuck in a tramping hut in ranges south of Taupo was in Hawke's Bay Hospital within 90 minutes of the alarm being raised, after a "text book" helicopter rescue.

Hastings Girls' High School pupil Riley Smith, 18, was three days into a four-day Duke of Edinburgh Award tramp in the Kaimanawa Range when a teacher became concerned on Monday afternoon that she was badly dehydrated and feverish.

Riley was treated in hospital with intravenous fluids and was resting at home yesterday.
She credited the speedy rescue on "ticking all the boxes" and carrying the latest model locator beacon. "Sometimes you don't feel like doing all the paperwork, ticking all the boxes. But when you need it, it works. We were exactly where we said we'd be, and had the beacon."

Her sudden development of "the worst ever tonsillitis, in the middle of nowhere" was disturbing for the rest of the tramping party, but she slept through most of the drama.
"I was very drowsy. My throat was very sore and I couldn't get any food down and hardly any water. [Anything I had eaten] I had vomited. I just wanted to go home."

With four years' tramping experience, she knew she could be in trouble at the end of the second day's 22-kilometre tramp, when her throat started to hurt and she felt weak.
"By the third day I was very weak, tripping over. I had no energy. I was trying to eat jellybeans for instant energy, but it was hard to get them down."

That afternoon, on reaching Oamaru Hut, she was too ill to stand and the locator beacon was set off to call for help.

Hastings Girls' High School principal Geraldine Travers said the six girls and two teachers were carrying a school-owned beacon.

The modern safety equipment meant the school was comfortable sending pupils into potentially dangerous environments, "because help is immediately at hand".

Lowe Corporation rescue helicopter pilot Dean Herrick said the fact that the girls were carrying the "very latest, incredibly accurate" beacon made the rescue easy.

"They're a bit like insurance ... there's a cost involved but it's a small price to pay if it turns out you need them."

Source: The Dominion Post