Social media was crucial in the chopper rescue of a stranded Chinese visitor in Queenstown last Thursday.
The visitor, who wants to be identified only as Yuan, lost her way off the Queenstown Hill walking track just before dark.
Not knowing who to contact, she messaged Queenstown store Aotea Gifts on her iPad - she’d set up a WeChat account with the store the day before.
WeChat customer service consultant Victor Li, in Auckland, received her distressed messages.
Li suggested she make an emergency 111 call to the police, but she couldn’t make calls on her iPad.
So he put her in touch with Lucia Hao from Aotea Gifts Queenstown while Yuan sent photos of her surroundings.
Police then visited the store and traded voice messages over the app to work out Yuan’s location, as their search and rescue (SAR) team swung into action. She shined her iPad torch when the helicopter approached.
The SAR team found her safe and well, almost four hours after she’d sent her original WeChat message.
Aotea Gifts boss Julian Bottaro says he’s extremely proud of his staff for going above and beyond their duty to look after their former customer in her hour of need.
“The power of social media has been highlighted in a very positive way.
“We are very relieved that through our WeChat channel, Yuan was safe and able to enjoy the rest of her time in Queenstown.”
A grateful Yuan also thanked Bottaro’s team, reinforcing they’d been her only NZ contact.
Local police SAR coordinator Julian Cahill adds: “Without establishing communications, she could have quite easily ended up spending the night out on the hill.”
A social media messaging app, WeChat has more than 650 million monthly active users - the majority based in China.