Man rescued from cliff was an injured hiker not ‘dumb tourist’
RED-FACED police in New Zealand have apologised for wrongly accusing a badly injured man of essentially being a dumb tourist.
On Monday police said a man had been plucked to safety from a steep ledge near the picturesque Otira Gorge Rock Shelter Lookout on the South Island, where he had been stranded for hours.
It was difficult to rescue the man from his tricky position on the ledge, and involved police crews, four fire crews, two rescue helicopters, and an alpine cliff rescue and lines crew called in from nearby Christchurch.
Police at the time understood the man to be a snap-happy tourist who had ignored safety barriers and got himself into trouble.
“It’s frustrating,” Senior Sergeant John Price said on Monday, according to Stuff.co.nz.
“This is a timely reminder to all people out walking or climbing to obey all warning signs near rock faces and cliffs.
“The signs are there for a reason, and if you ignore them, then this is what can happen.”
But it has now been revealed the man was, in fact, a badly injured hiker who was lucky to be alive after spending 18 hours trapped on the steep aqueduct after falling 50 metres from a rocky cliff.
He was in such a perilous position he “knew he was going to die” if he fell down to the rocks below, a NZCC Rescue Helicopter spokesman said.
Stuff.co.nz reported the man fell while hiking on a zigzag road on Sunday night and landed in a gully.
He was badly injured and barely able to walk, so he crawled for three hours and after finding a rope, descended into the Reid Falls Aqueduct.
There, he tied himself to a plant to stop from falling. Tourists finally spotted him about 10.30pm on Monday.
“He knew he was going to die if he didn’t get down the cliff,” the NZCC spokesman said.
“He could have been easily killed in the fall.”
Police acknowledged their mistake.
“All we can really do at this point is apologise for the error,” a police spokeswoman told Stuff.co.nz.