18 Jun 2012

Men caught in avalanche lucky to be alive

12:22 pm on 18 June 2012

Police say two men winched from Mt Taranaki following an avalanche are lucky to be alive.

The pair, aged 37 and 40, were caught in the avalanche just after 11am on Sunday in an area near the natural feature Humphries Castle.

The men were carried some way down the mountain but Sergeant Andrew Ross says the situation could have been so much worse.

He says two things were key to the men's survival: they had a GPS so could inform searchers of their exact location, and a cellphone with a fully charged battery which meant they were able to communicate with people while they were waiting to be rescued.

The Mountain Safety Council says the retrieval of the two men buried was a "copy book rescue".

The council's avalanche programme manager, Andrew Hobman, says it appears one man ended up on the surface and found his friend, who had forced a hand through the snow.

Mr Hobman says it is important to try to swim to the surface while the snow is moving, and to create a breathing space around the face as it slows.

He says wearing a beacon will lead rescuers to the right location.

Both men were in a stable condition on Sunday evening after being admitted to Taranaki Base Hospital suffering from mild hypothermia and broken bones.