Res­cue team’s hero­ics earns spe­cial award

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS - By CHE BAKER

The heroic ef­forts of the Wanaka Alpine Cliff Res­cue Team have been com­mended at a cer­e­mony at Gov­ern­ment House in Welling­ton.

The team re­ceived a Cer­tifi­cate of Achieve­ment of Op­er­a­tional Ac­tiv­ity from Gover­nor-Gen­eral Sir Jerry Mateparae, pre­sented on be­half of the New Zealand Search and Res­cue Coun­cil.

The award was given to the team for the dar­ing res­cue of gen­eral prac­ti­tioner Dr Stephen Fin­ni­gan, of New Ply­mouth, who fell while ab­seil­ing a 10m cliff on Mt As­pir­ing in Septem­ber.

Fin­ni­gan, who was with his wife Liz and son An­drew at the time, had suc­cess­fully climbed to the sum­mit and was de­scend­ing in cloudy and windy con­di­tions when he fell near the Quar­ter Deck Pass, crack­ing a rib and in­jur­ing a wrist.

An emer­gency bea­con was ac­ti­vated and res­cue team mem­bers Richard Raynes and Lionel Clay with the help of aw­inch op­er­a­tor flown in a South­ern Lakes he­li­copter, launched into ac­tion about 10.50pm.

Poor visibility pre­vented the crew from land­ing near the pass and the res­cuers in­stead landed be­low French Ridge Hut about 1.35am.

They then climbed 1100m in snow and ami­nus 5-10 de­gree wind chill tem­per­a­tures with wet and frozen gear through the early hours of the morn­ing to reach the climbers about 6am, who were then flown off the moun­tain with the help of other crew mem­bers.

Raynes said it was a com­plex res­cue due to the ad­verse weather, high altitude and be­cause it was in the dark­ness of night.

It was an hon­our for the team to be recog­nised, Raynes said.

‘‘It’s a good feel­ing to be able to give back to the public . . . some­one’s got to do it,’’ he said.

The coun­cil said ‘‘this res­cue was suc­cess­fully con­ducted as a re­sult of ef­fec­tive co-or­di­na­tion and plan­ning, and in par­tic­u­lar, by the skills, brav­ery, and team­work demon­strated by the Wanaka ACR team mem­bers.

‘‘Their ef­forts reach­ing the pa­tient in poor weather con­di­tions, and in the dark, meant they could pro­vide first aid and com­fort to the climb­ing party, en­abling the quick ex­trac­tion of the pa­tient as soon as the weather cleared.’’

Sir Mateparae said it was a con­sid­er­able chal­lenge for search and res­cue teams across the coun­try to re­spond to over 2300 Cat­e­gory 1 and 2 in­ci­dents an­nu­ally in one of the largest search and res­cue ar­eas in the world.

‘‘On be­half of all New Zealan­ders, I thank all SAR per­sonal, ’’ he said.

Wanaka Alpine Cliff Res­cue team mem­ber Richard Raynes with the Cer­tifi­cates of Achieve­ment award pre­sented to the team at Gov­ern­ment House in Welling­ton last week.

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