Eight days have passed since the tragic death of Sateesh Babu Halehally-Chikkanna of Bangalore, India on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Department of Conservation Tongariro community relations senior supervisor Stacey Faire said the spiritual rahui has been lifted, but the memory of the search and rescue, then body recovery, lingers with all those who were involved - LandSAR, Police, Department of Conservation, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts and Hillary Outdoors.
“At the entrance to the track, karakia and waiata shrouded the rescuers, grieving family and friends in a protective blanket of aroha. However, the sadness of the tragedy has resonated deeply with rescuers and the burden feels heavier as this fatality could have likely been prevented.
“After such a tragedy we ask what can we do prevent this happening again? People talk about duty of care or more warning signs or gates, but it’s well known that people listen to recommendations from other people.”
Senior Constable Barry Shepherd of Taupo Police is encouraging all Kiwis to “step up, help by reaching out and talking to our visitors, to our guests, our customers and people you meet on your travels.
“Intervene. Talk to visitors who are in your shops, petrol stations or hotels. Ask them their plans, tell them about the New Zealand weather - what cold really means here, what rain really means here.
“Tell them that jeans are not acceptable in any hiking situation. Let them know a torch can help save their lives,” Barry says.
“If we all take the time to reach out, tell them at different points in time, at difference places, then maybe safety messages will get through. We have a collective responsibility to help care for our visitors.
“We need our visitors to thrive in our country not just survive.”
Joint release by New Zealand Police and Department of Conservation