Hikers trapped in -7 degree Tassie weather


A rescue operation will begin today to save three hikers who got into trouble during a trek in Tasmania's bleak Cradle Mountain region on Friday.

The walkers, believed to be from India, were struck down by hypothermia on the Overland Track yesterday afternoon, and a distress signal was activated.

The Westpac Rescue Helicopter was deployed to airlift the group out, but poor weather including freezing temperatures and strong winds of up to 100km/h forced it to abandon the mission and return to Hobart.

According to The Mercury, two Parks and Wildlife Service rangers and other hikers in the area helped the group before a search and rescue party including three police officers and two wilderness paramedics arrived at the scene at around 9pm last night.

The three hikers, aged 28, 37 and 45, sought shelter in the Kitchen Hut area overnight, braving metre-deep snow and temperatures as low as -7 degrees Celsius.

Another attempt to airlift them out will begin again today.

In a lengthy statement, Tasmania Police Inspector Shane LeFevre gave details of the failed rescue mission.

"The three people are believed to be international visitors from India, aged 28, 37 and 45 years," Inspector LeFevre said, according to The Advocate.

"The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Challenger Jet aircraft, dedicated to search and rescue missions, was deployed from King Island and provided direct input into weather conditions around the mountain.

"The Westpac Rescue Helicopter was activated and travelled to Cradle Mountain. Unfortunately, the weather conditions did not allow the helicopter access to Kitchen Hut and due to increasing inclement weather had to return to Hobart.

The Westpac helicopter was forced to return to Hobart due to poor weather conditions. Picture: Facebook
The Westpac helicopter was forced to return to Hobart due to poor weather conditions. Picture: Facebook

"A land based Search and Rescue party involving three police Search and Rescue personnel and two Ambulance Tasmania Wilderness Paramedics commenced travel from Dove Lake.

"At the time two Parks and Wildlife Rangers and other civilian walkers were with the three international walkers at Kitchen Hut and provided assistance until police and paramedics arrived at around 9pm."

He also reminded other hikers to be wary of conditions in the area.

"Hikers must pay close attention to weather forecasts and take appropriate precautions; prepare fully for the extreme walking conditions of Tasmania … even in summer; preferably carry an EPIRB at all times and if not prepared - delay their walk," he said.

Last month, several groups of hikers had to be rescued from Tasmania, including two adults and a baby who spent a freezing night on the Overland Track.

Weather conditions are expected to ease today, with authorities optimistic about the chance of success.

- More to come

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