A six-year-old boy walked nearly two kilometres in the dark to raise the alarm after a vehicle crash on the West Coast overnight swept his mother into the Arahura River, near Hokitika.
West Coast Police say his mother, a 41-year-old local woman, is lucky to be alive after she was swept down the Arahura River and out to sea following the crash.
The child got out of the vehicle after the crash and walked to State Highway 6 where he was found just before 2am by a member of the public.
He was able to tell Police that his mother's vehicle had crashed, and she was in the water, but he couldn't get her out.
The incident sparked a full-scale search and rescue operation.
“We put the call out for assistance, and it was answered en masse by LandSAR volunteers, Fire and Emergency NZ, Surf Life Saving New Zealand, the Coastguard and members of the jet boating community”, said Sergeant Mark Kirwood of West Coast Search and Rescue.
The woman was located at about 7.30am seven kilometres north of the Arahura River mouth on the beach.
“We were also greatly assisted by the new Garden City Helicopter which had a search member on board with thermal imaging equipment.”
It was established she had gone down the river and into the ocean before being washed ashore north of the river mouth.
She is currently being treated for hypothermia in Greymouth Hospital. Her son was unharmed and is in the care of relatives.
The Arahura River mouth is about eight kilometres north of Hokitika.