A snapshot of Search and Rescue

The story of Liat Okin has entered the news again lately, specifically because the Southland Area Coroner has been unable to find any explanation of why she would have left the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks which is targeted predominantly at tourists. Back in May 2008, Liat sadly died when she left the Routeburn Track, apparently to follow an unmaintained emergency bush-bashing route for no clear reason and (apparently) out of character, before she slipped and fell. Photos from her camera implied that she wasn’t especially concerned about her situation, and there are still disturbing murmurings (though no solid evidence) about possible foul play, or at least that a person unknown may have shown her the route and encouraged her to follow it, then left her alone. It was a big story at the time, first because Liat disappeared without a trace, and second because after the Police-coordinated Search and Rescue team gave up the search, her family resorted to privately funding one of the largest Land Search and Rescue operations that New Zealand has ever seen.

Shortly after the search concluded, one of those involved posted an amateur 4 minute video that shows an interesting snapshot of a SAR operation in progress. If you’ve not already seen it, it’s worth a quick look, and if you click through to the YouTube page you can read a better description about what’s going on.

One outcome of the Coroner’s report seems to be that DoC review its branding of “Great Walks”, noting that the term “Walk” might create confusion for some tourists whose first language isn’t English and who might incorrectly interpret the term to mean that there’s no potential danger. On the face of it and without all the information at hand, I’m not convinced it would have helped in this situation, but perhaps there’s something to the idea.

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