News from NZ Police
With a break in the weather, the recovery of the bodies of climbers Nicole Sutton and Hiroki Ogawa began this morning at about 6:50 am.
Air Force personnel were able to drop Alpine Cliff Rescue team members on the area of the mountain where the two climbers had died.
They winched the bodies off the mountain and returned to New Plymouth. The recovery took just over an hour. The matter will now be referred to the Coroner.
Wellington.Scoop – October 28
Two climbers have died on Mt Taranaki after being trapped for two nights in a snow cave.
Radio New Zealand reports that the second climber to die was Nicole Sutton, 29, who died this morning after rescuers reached her. Ms Sutton and her boyfriend Hiroki Ogawa had tried to find shelter in a snow cave for a second night as overnight temperatures plummeted to minus 17 degrees Celsius. Mr Ogawa, 31, was dead when rescuers found the couple early this morning.
The Taranaki Daily News reports that the couple had been part of a climbing group of eight from the Auckland Alpine Club who reached the summit late on Saturday but then had trouble with the descent. Bad weather had been hampering the rescuers and helicopters were unable to fly. A group of rescuers had to turn back at 4am this morning but a second group reached the pair at 7:30am.
Four of the group made it down on Saturday and raised the alarm about 10pm when others in the group had not returned. Two others returned yesterday after surviving one night on the mountain.
Late this afternoon, Taranaki Police reported:
Search teams spent last night on the mountain at altitude trying to locate the two missing climbers. Their efforts were significantly hampered by the conditions and they were forced to return to the forward staging area at Tahurangi Lodge at 0400 hrs.
A fresh search team was deployed at approximately 0330 hrs and reached the two climbers at 0730 hrs.
Unfortunately, the male climber had passed away during the night. All efforts were then focused on getting the surviving climber off the mountain and providing further medical assistance. The weather continued to hamper rescue efforts.
Nicole was conscious and speaking with rescuers initially, but then slipped into a state where she showed no signs of life. The rescue team stayed with her for several hours while recovery attempts were being made. The weather conditions have been extreme. Due to the conditions, the rescue teams descended back down the mountain to the staging area to ensure no further loss of life.
Area Commander Inspector Blair Telford says “We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the victims. Our focus is now on recovery and this will be done when there is an improvement in the weather. We still have a number of resources on standby including alpine cliff rescue and the Air Force, who are waiting for a break in the weather.”
The NZ Herald reports that Ms Sutton grew up near Marton and attended Chilton St James School in Lower Hutt before studying accounting and commercial law at Victoria University in Wellington. Dr Ogawa was a qualified geoscientist who specialised in coastal processes, geomorphology and sedimentology.He studied geosciences and geology at The University of Wollongong in New South Wales, before completing a PhD at the University of Auckland, where he was working as a research fellow and tutor.