Two Kiwis lost in a remote South Island national park say they survived the past 13 days without food before a “miraculous” rescue.
Takaka locals Dion Reynolds and Jessica O’Connor, both 23, were discovered on Wednesday, 19 days after starting a bushwalk in Kahurangi National Park before they got disorientated in fog.
Dozens of volunteers, a police dog squad, helicopters and drones were used in a massive search operation in dense bushland and difficult country at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island,
They were finally found and winched to safety early on Wednesday, after two days of wild storms. A search helicopter spotted smoke from a fire they had lit.
“We were very lost,” Mr Reynolds told Radio NZ, blaming heavy fog for becoming disorientated in heavy bush.
“We realised we needed water … Jess had gone to this little rocky puddle that we ended up boiling the water out of, and that was all right for us.”
Mr Reynolds sprained an ankle halfway through the ordeal, while Ms O’Connor also suffered a minor back sprain that caused them to “wait out their injuries”.
“It was 13 days with no food.
“The saving grace was the fact that two-minute walk across the gully was a fresh mossy stream with fresh water for us to drink. That’s what kept us alive,” he said.
He said they saw a search helicopter fly within 50 metres of them about a week ago, but it failed to spot them in poor light.
Family friend Heather Turner Behringer, who helped coordinate the search, labelled the recovery effort “a miracle”.
“Truly, a hell of a place with extreme beauty. To survive it is miraculous,” she told Stuff.
The rescued pair celebrated over pizza with family and friends on Wednesday night.
The rescue team spent Thursday morning picking up the remaining 13 searchers, and two dogs, who spent the night in the wilderness.