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One hunter's nearly-deadly mishap a reminder about the importance of personal locator beacons

With the easing of restrictions on hunting under Alert Level 2, one man’s mishap is a timely reminder about the importance of having a personal locator beacon.

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George Bailey, 21, fell down a cliff while hunting in the Nelson Lakes area, luckily he had a beacon. Source: Seven Sharp

George Bailey, 21, fell 8 metres down a sheer cliff face while he was out hunting in the Nelson Lakes area last year. He and his dad were on their annual father-son hunting trip, and he’d headed out on his own, something he'd done plenty of times before.

Mr Bailey was knocked unconscious and found himself on a tiny ledge on the edge of a fatal 100-metre drop when he came to.

“Words can’t describe how lucky I am,” Mr Bailey told TVNZ1’s Seven Sharp.

By a stroke of fortune, Mr Bailey had bought himself a personal locator beacon just a few days before and had only registered it on the morning of his fall. He used it while on the ledge. What followed was a dramatic, life-saving rescue by Life Flight’s Westpac helicopter.

Wellington Free Ambulance Flight Paramedic Nigel Stephens said the rescue was technically challenging.

“First challenge was actually trying to find George. It’s great that he had a personal locator beacon and it’s great that he activated it,” he said.

“Unfortunately, where he was, the signal bounced and when a signal bounces, it makes it a little more difficult to find and pinpoint where he is.”

But, he said the team eventually found Mr Bailey in relatively good condition.

Mr Stephens said he recommended a personal locator for anyone who went off off-road, in the wilderness, on boats and on mountains 

“It can save a life,” he said.

Mr Bailey said he was extremely grateful for his rescuers Life Flight.

“I was off for a wee while, I’m back at work, I’m back in action … but I’ll always have that memory at the back of my head and I’ll always have my PLB on me.”

Covid-19 Alert Level 2 rules allowed hunters to hunt on public conservation land again. Previously, under Alert Level 3, hunting was only permitted on private land.