Walkers Were Well Prepared for Ordeal in the Bush

Twelve North-West bushwalkers trapped in Meander floods were rescued by helicopter yesterday.

The experienced North-West Walking Club group spent more than 18 hours trapped in cold and wet weather at Meander Falls Reserve before they were airlifted to safety about 12.30pm yesterday. The helicopter had to make four trips to rescue the group, which left Wattle Hill near Meander for the Stone Hut Circuit about 8.30am Sunday. 

Walking club member Jeanette Kelly said they triggered their emergency position-indicating radio beacon about 4.50pm Sunday when swollen rivers blocked their exit. She said they were just shouting distance from their car. ‘‘We were quite safe, we had a fire, police came a couple of times in the night to tell us what their plans were,’’ Mrs Kelly said.
Mrs Kelly said when they left the river was at a safe level and they were surprised it had risen so high. Acting Inspector Craig Fox said a plan to winch the bushwalkers across the swollen waterways was replaced when a call for missing kayakers at Trowutta meant the Westpac Helicopter was able to attend the scene.

Food, refreshments, a two-way radio and written instructions from police were winched to the group before the helicopter’s arrival.
‘‘These people were very prepared, they did everything right — they had food, warm clothing, they were dry, they had an EPIRB,’’ Acting Inspector Fox said. ‘‘Creeks, snow, the cold, all these things can be very dangerous when you’re bushwalking, as long as you’re prepared you give yourself the best chance for survival.’’

Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Anna Forrest last night said there were still minor flood warnings for the Mersey, North Esk and Meander rivers. ‘‘Overnight across the state minimums were well above average, it was nowhere near as cold as it can be for this time of year,’’ Ms Forrest said. Meander yesterday recorded 23 millimetres of rain, the highest so far for the month.

Published in the Launceston Examiner on the 16th of July 2013.