Miraculous tale of survival: How missing hikers kept themselves alive after 19 days lost in the bush without food
- Two campers survived 18 days missing in the remote New Zealand wilderness
- Dion Reynolds and Jessica O’Connor went camping in Kahurangi National Park
- The seasoned wilderness hikers never returned home on May 14 as expected
- Mr Reynolds and Ms O’Connor were rescued on Wednesday by a helicopter
- Drones, sniffer dogs, tracking experts and a team of volunteers were called in
Two missing hikers who spent two weeks lost in a rugged and isolated part of New Zealand have opened up about their ordeal.
Dion Reynolds and Jessica O’Connor, both 23, went camping at Anatori Valley in Kahurangi National Park, on the South Island, on May 9.
But the seasoned wilderness hikers never returned on May 14, when they were expected home.
Mr Reynolds and Ms O’Connor were rescued by a helicopter on Wednesday at about 12.50pm following a large-scale search.
Dozens of volunteers, a police dog squad, helicopters and drones were used in a massive operation.
While speaking to Radio New Zealand on Thursday, Mr Reynolds revealed they lost their way because of thick fog.
Dion Reynolds and Jessica O’Connor, both 23, went camping in Kahurangi National Park, on the South Island, on May 9
They were days into the hike when they realised they had been walking in a loop.
‘I told Jess we need to stop now because that’s my footprint. We were very lost at that point.’
The pair remained calm, despite the fact they were quickly running out of food and desperately needed to find water.
On day seven, as they made their way to a waterfall, disaster struck.
‘We were going down a gully, real steep, it turned from a small rocky stream into pretty serious waterfall,’ Mr Reynolds said.
‘On our way down, I twisted and sprained my ankle … we got to a waterfall that was 15-20m high and we just looked at each other were like ”we can’t go down that, we need to stop and go back up the hill and stop”.’
Wednesday morning’s search commenced at first light, and focused on the Anatori River and the coastline of Kahurangi National Park, on the South Island
Despite his injury, the pair endeavoured. That was until a day later, when Ms O’Connor fell, injuring her back.
With both Ms O’Connor and Mr Reynolds suffering injuries, they decided to stop and set up camp.
They managed to find a fresh mossy stream which kept them alive until rescuers arrived.
Mr Reynolds said they saw a search helicopter fly within 50 metres of the pair about a week ago.
When it failed to spot them due to poor light the pair decided to light a fire in the hope of grabbing rescuers attention.
‘The first chopper came over and saw us and Jess went over the quarry and started waving at it.
‘Then the medic came down… At that point I knew we were saved.’
The rescued pair celebrated over pizza with family and friends on Wednesday night.
Mr Reynolds and Ms O’Connor (pictured) were rescued on Wednesday by a helicopter on Wednesday, before being airlifted to Nelson hospital