Hunter accidentally moved 1-tonne boulder that trapped his leg for over two hours

Hunter accidentally moved 1-tonne boulder that trapped his leg for over two hours

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Firefighters from the Frankton Brigade helped rescue the injured hunter near Kingston on Monday.

A hunter’s leg was trapped under a one-tonne boulder after he accidentally released it while climbing through rocky and steep backcountry near Queenstown.

The man and his companion activated a personal locator beacon at around 5pm on Monday and alerted rescuers to their fate.

Three helicopters transported paramedics, police, the Queenstown-based Alpine Cliff Rescue Team, firefighters and hydraulic equipment to the site.

It took two-and-a-half hours to free the man before he was flown to Dunedin Hospital with a crushed leg, and in a stable condition.

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Russell Tilsley, Wakatipu Alpine Cliff Team Rescue co-ordinator, the man and his companion were experienced hunters from the North Island.

They were at the start of a three-day hunting trip when they climbed rocks along Wye Creek, between Queenstown and Kingston.

The terrain was steep and difficult.

The rock moved as the man pulled on it to lift himself up, pinning his lower leg between that rock and another.


An Otago rescue helicopter brought a paramedic to the scene and carried the injured hunter to Dunedin hospital.

An Otago Rescue Helicopter paramedic was first dropped at the site and was able to administer pain relief when the Alpine Cliff Rescue Team arrived, Tilsley said.

However, the team did not have the heavy lifting equipment needed to move the rock, so called in the Frankton Fire Department.

Queenstown Lakes Commander Nic McQuillan said a team of firefighters and hydraulic equipment were flown to the scene.

It took about an hour from their arrival to free the man using two hydraulic rams to move the rock sideways and upwards.

The rock weighed about a ton, he said.

It was an “unusual job” for the team, although using the equipment was “business as usual,” McQuillan said.

Tilsley said the injured man was already fitted into a harness and was being whisked to the helicopter within a minute of the rock being moved.


Grant Upson of the Taranaki Alpine Cliff Rescue team recalls some of the more difficult rescues he encountered. (First published August 2018)

The firefighters were the heroes of the rescue, he said, and he praised the helicopter pilots who had to land on a skid in the difficult terrain to get people and equipment to the site.

There was a “million to one” chance the rock would move and pin the man, he said.

“He was very unhappy, you could say, and in some ways happy.”

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