Tauranga-Taupo river Search and Rescue operation



A 25-year-old man is recovering in Taupo Hospital this morning, after getting into serious trouble while kayaking the Tauranga-Taupo River yesterday afternoon.

An Okere Falls man and his kayaking companion were dropped off at 3.30pm yesterday afternoon, Monday 20 February, 2017, at the end of Kiko Road in the Kaimanawa Forest Park.

They planned to kayak a section of the river, which included a paddle over the 25m-high Tauranga-Taupo Falls.

Senior Constable Barry Shepherd of Taupo Police Search and Rescue says both men are very experienced kayakers, having paddled dozens of waterfalls around the world.

“As the first kayaker paddled over the falls, he landed badly, getting knocked out and submerged in the water.

His kayaking partner, who was at the bottom looking out for him, immediately pulled him out and performed CPR on the riverside, successfully reviving him and saving his life.”

Without any means to call for help, the kayakers continued paddling downstream.

“On the way down, they missed an exit point but couldn’t turn back.

With the onset of darkness, the two stopped and lit a fire for warmth,” says Mr Shepherd.

The uninjured kayaker then walked approximately 5km down a forestry road until he found cell phone reception.

Just before midnight he was able to call Police and St John ambulance.

“Wet, cold, disorientated, injured and coughing blood, the injured kayaker had to wait on his own with no knowledge of when a rescue might come.”

A search and rescue operation was initiated just after midnight involving Police, St John Ambulance and LandSAR Turangi volunteers.

NZ Forest Managers personnel were also deployed while the Taupo based Greenlea Rescue Helicopter searched from above.

“We found the kayaker who called for help on a forestry road at about 2am.

His headlamp was clearly visible to us in the helicopter.

Ground personnel were directed to him, while up in the helicopter, we continued searching for the injured man.”

Within a short time, he was found on the edge of the river.

The fire that had been lit was clearly visible from above and the ground teams were able to reach him by 3am.

The Greenlea Rescue Helicopter winched the injured kayaker out and flew him to Taupo Hospital, where he is now receiving medical treatment.

He will be transported to Rotorua Hospital later today. 

Mr Shepherd says a personal locator beacon could’ve saved the two several hours of distress.

“A PLB should be taken with you in any remote areas for use in emergencies like this.

Cell phone reception isn’t needed if you get in trouble and the two wouldn’t have needed to split up.

“Luckily these two were so fortunate on this occasion, and they had the right knowledge and just enough emergency gear on them to make it out alive.”