Search volunteer’s warning after third track rescue

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A LEADING Queenstown search and rescue volunteer is signalling a tough warning to wayward trampers. 

“You’re not in a theme park – it isn’t Disneyland out there,” says Alpine Cliff Rescue’s Chris Prudden, following the third recent accident at the Bridal Veil Stream waterfall on the Routeburn Track, near Glenorchy. 

Prudden speaks out after being part of a 12-strong team that scrambled to save an Auckland man who plunged 10 metres into a rocky ravine. 

The 37-year-old has been recovering at hospital in Dunedin with a fractured skull, a leg broken in two places, a broken arm and facial injuries after spending more than three hours in a freezing river last Thursday. 

It’s thought the tramper may have fallen from the wrong side of a bridge after trying to get closer to the falls for a photograph, Prudden says. 

“This is the third incident at the same spot in less than a year which seems to have been caused by people going off the track for a better look at the waterfall or to take photos,” Prudden says. 

“When we reached the guy in the river, I noticed his footwear was very casual for tramping in what can be a precarious area. 

“I’ve even seen some people walking into the Routeburn in jandals and I find it quite offensive. 

“People need to realise just because there’s a real flash track through there it doesn’t mean everything they do there is easy – they have to stick to the track.” 

The 9.45pm drama last Thursday involved four members of the Queenstown Alpine Cliff Rescue, two medics, three police officers and three helicopters. 

The injured man was choppered to Lakes District Hospital before being transferred to Southland Hospital in Invercargill at 1am on Friday, then on to Dunedin. 

“The operation had a successful outcome but all up it must have cost the taxpayer quite a few thousand dollars,” Prudden adds. 

St John Wakatipu boss Alana Reid praises the emergency services and her organisation for the combined rescue effort. 

But she echoes Prudden’s concerns about trampers wandering off the beaten track. 

“Barring putting tarmac tracks down and erecting concrete barriers everywhere, how do you get people to take responsibility for their own actions?” Reid says. 

“These kinds of accidents are often the result of people making a series of poor decisions – like first of all going off to do something risky on their own, not having the right footwear, then getting themselves into places they shouldn’t be in.”