Infrared camera finds missing Mangakino man in bush after 36 hours

A 79-year old Mangakino man was found by search and rescue teams in bush after being missing for 36 hours.

The man, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, was last seen on the morning of Friday, July 30, and was reported missing just after midday on Saturday.

A joint effort by Taupō and Tūrangi Land Search and Rescue (LandSar) staff alongside Coastguard, Eagle helicopter and the Mangakino community found the missing man on Saturday evening.

Police said family and police were extremely concerned for his wellbeing, and after initial searches of places he was known to visit were unsuccessful, LandSar teams were sent.

Police SAR coordinator Senior Constable Barry Shepherd said four field teams from Taupō and Tūrangi concentrated their efforts 2km south of Mangakino on the Waikato River Trail.

“It was getting dark and he’d been gone a day, so we were pretty keen to find him as soon as possible,” Shepherd said.

“He was last seen on that river trail, so we combed that area hoping for the best.”

About 10pm, Eagle helicopter using its infrared camera spotted him lying in vegetation near the Waikato River and directed search teams to him. Ten minutes later the teams were assessing his condition.

“One team was about 200m from him when Eagle zeroed in on his position,” Shepherd said.

“We could have passed right by him and not known.

“We were extremely fortunate in finding him relatively safe and well, considering he’d been out for 36 hours.”

Shepherd said families of those with degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia, would benefit from having a Wandatrak tracking device for their loved ones.

WanderSearch is a system within the Safer Walking framework that is made up of a radio frequency (RF) device that people who are at risk of going missing wear.

The tracking devices are small pendants in the form of a necklace, belt attachment or watch, worn by the wandering person.

Police and LandSar volunteers throughout New Zealand use search equipment designed to detect these devices to assist them locate the missing person in the speediest manner possible.

LandSar works with Wander Search groups to provide guidance, support and training throughout New Zealand.

When a person wearing the device goes missing, Police will track the person using the device, proving to be a successful system for both police and families.

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