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New Zealand police rescue 2 hikers after 19 days in wilderness

By
Don Jacobson

May 27 (UPI) -- Searchers on Wednesday found two lost hikers alive after they spent nearly three weeks in the remote wilderness of a rugged national park in New Zealand, authorities said.

Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor, both 23, were found after 19 days in Kahurangi National Park on New Zealand's South Island, about 185 miles west of Wellington.

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The women set off for the hike on May 9. When they didn't return, authorities searched the rugged terrain for several days.

New Zealand Police Search and Rescue Sgt. Malcolm York said the women made themselves visible in a thickly wooded area on Wednesday by building a fire and sending up smoke that was spotted by searchers in a helicopter.

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The women, who had each received minor injuries, were airlifted out of the area.

Saying it was "pretty rare" to find people alive after such a lengthy search, York praised Reynolds and O'Connor for doing the "right thing."

"They stayed put, and they made themselves visible, so when we got to that spot, we were able to see them," he said.

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"It's a long way from anywhere out there... it's incredibly lucky we got such a good result given the location."

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The search was plagued this week by fog and bad weather and included 30 police, a volunteer force, five tracking experts and three teams of search dogs.

O'Connor's father Mark said his family were "absolutely over the moon" when the women were found alive.

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"Then they confirmed it was Jess and Dion ... so it was just fantastic," he said. "The search team and the police have done such a fantastic job."

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