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Experienced tramper unaware of search alert

Experienced tramper unaware of search alert

30.06.2006

A tramper at the centre of a search and rescue alert was yesterday wondering what all the fuss was about.
An “embarrassed” Tony Langton, 63, said a search was unnecessary as he had not been lost. He had run out of daylight hours on Wednesday after being forced to back-track in heavy bush, so decided to sleep rough in the Russell Forest and walk out at daylight.

He was unaware his absence had sparked a search and rescue operation.

About 20 police, Northland Search and Rescue volunteers and a helicopter were preparing to launch a search for Mr Langton when he turned up at his Whangaruru home at 10am.

Northland Search and Rescue boss Cliff Metcalfe said Mr Langton’s wife had called police at 8am to say her husband had failed to arrive home after going on a tramp the previous day.

Mr Langton had called his wife by cellphone the previous evening about 6pm to say he was okay and was going to attempt to walk out that night, but may have to stay in the bush overnight.

Mr Metcalfe said Mr Langton should have alerted authorities when it became dark so they could go in and bring him out.

Instead he had run the risk of walking off the track in the dark and getting lost, which would have made it difficult to find him the next day.

When Mr Langton failed to contact his wife early the next morning, she alerted authorities.  Mr Langton said he had told his wife not to worry unless he still wasn’t out by midday. “I had a good parka on and a survival blanket under me.”  He put down ponga ferns to sleep on and “catnapped” during the 13 hours of darkness.  “It wasn’t that uncomfortable … but trust me to pick the shortest day and longest night.”

A tramper of 30 years experience, he had a map and GPS system. He also had bananas, tangelos and biscuits to eat and adequate clothing, he said.

“I am a bit embarrassed because the search and rescue operation was completely unnecessary – I was never lost, but I appreciate what they were doing for me.”