Two campers have survived 18 days lost in the remote New Zealand wilderness.
Dion Reynolds and Jessica O’Connor, both 23, went camping at Anatori Valley in Kahurangi National Park, on the South Island, on May 9.
But the seasoned wilderness hikers never returned on May 14, when they were expected home.
Mr Reynolds and Ms O’Connor were rescued by a helicopter on Wednesday at about 12.50pm following a week-long large-scale search.
A St John Ambulance spokesperson said the pair were flown to Nelson Hospital with minor injuries.
They walked photographed walking into emergency department with blankets over their heads.
Dion Reynolds and Jessica O’Connor, both 23, went camping in Kahurangi National Park, on the South Island, on May 9
Authorities sounded the alarm last Tuesday – five days after the pair were expected to return home.
However heavy rain over the weekend hindered the search, with authorities fearing the pair wouldn’t survive in the cold, wet conditions.
Drones, a sniffer dog and a heat map of the valley made up part of the large scale search effort to find the Mr Reynolds and Ms O’Connor.
Five specialist tracking experts had also been brought in from around the country, while more than 30 police and volunteers worked from several different locations.
A Royal NZ Air Force NH90 helicopter was deployed over the past few days as the search for the campers ramped up.
Sergeant Malcolm York said the defence force were flying six teams into the area.
Wednesday morning’s search commenced at first light, and focused on the Anatori River and the coastline of Kahurangi National Park, on the South Island
Wednesday morning’s search commenced at first light, and focused on the Anatori River and the coastline.
Heather Simpson, who had been camping with Ms O’Connor and Mr Reynolds, was one of the last people to see the pair.
‘I asked where they were going and how long for, and they said they were heading up river and had 4-6 days [worth] of food, which they planned to ration and stretch by fasting as long as possible, to spend longer,’ she told Stuff.
Ms Simpson described them as ‘young, fit and experienced with good gear, intelligence and skills’.
Mr Reynolds’ former boss said she was ‘buzzing’ after hearing the news.
‘We just had a shot of rum [at the bar] to celebrate and we had goosebumps. It’s such a buzz … this morning when I woke up I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, because it’s just been a long time. Just never lose hope,’ she said.
Mr Reynolds’ roommate Simona Barnova said it has been a ‘tough few weeks’ waiting for the pair to be found.
LandSAR NZ chief executive Carl McOnie said a team of volunteers had faith the pair would make it out safely due to their wilderness experience.
‘You never lose hope and you always have hope,’ he said.
Mr Reynolds and Ms O’Connor (pictured) were rescued on Wednesday by a helicopter on Wednesday, before being airlifted to Nelson hospital
Source: Daily Mail New Zealand