10 Feb 2016

Lost woman: 'No point hurting yourself'

2:07 pm on 10 February 2016

A woman lost in the bush south of Auckland overnight said she panicked at one point during her ordeal, but her dog helped her pull herself together to survive the night.

Steph Bergonia-Ward and her dog Kitarah

Steph Bergonia-Ward and her dog Kitarah Photo: Supplied

Steph Bergonia-Ward, 20, went missing after leaving her Paparimu Road home in Hunua at about 7pm last night, to go for a run with her dog, Kitarah.

She quickly realised she was lost and tried to retrace her steps, but got confused and felt like she was going around in circles.

That was when her hunting experience kicked in and she made the decision to stay in one place.

"As soon as it got dark, no point hurting yourself and rolling down somewhere. Just stayed put as soon as I couldn't do it anymore and when it got dark," she said.

Her dog stayed with her throughout the ordeal and snuggled up to her to keep warm, as she was only wearing a t-shirt and shorts.

Meanwhile, her family were frantic with worry, and headed out to search Paparimu Road.

The Hunua volunteer Fire Brigade joined the search along with the police search and rescue team.

Steven Ward, Ms Bergonia-Ward's father, said they were desperate with worry throughout the night, but once the good news arrived they were also very proud of how she coped.

He said she knew exactly what to do: "Stay where she was, hunkered down with the dog and got warm. And as soon as first light she started walking back to where she could remember and they found her."

Mr Ward said he was very grateful to Kitarah the dog, who stayed with Ms Bergonia-Ward throughout the night.

She said it was an amazing feeling to finally see the police and know she was safe at long last.

"I've never felt that feeling before just to see someone, be so happy to see someone that's not an animal. The amount of possums and things that went on last night was kind of freaky. As soon as I saw them (the police) I just collapsed," she said.

The police have also praised Ms Bergonia-Ward for her good sense to stay in one place overnight.

Sergeant Dean Duthie coordinated the search and said she did everything right, "She was resilient, knew what to do and didn't panic and it was a very good outcome."

Mr Duthie said he did not think that Ms Bergonia-Ward would be going out walking in the bush for a while.