Rescue team’s heroics earns special award
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.