Walkers Rescued From New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park After 19 Days Alone

by : Lucy Connolly on : 28 May 2020 15:30
two walkers rescued from new zealand wilderness 1two walkers rescued from new zealand wilderness 1Dominic O'Connor/givealittle

Two bushwalkers have been rescued in the New Zealand wilderness 19 days after they first set off on their journey.

Jessica O’Connor and Dion Reynolds, both 23, went missing in Kahurangi National Park in New Zealand’s South Island after setting off on May 8.

Initially planning to be gone for around six or seven days – having packed only enough food to last them for around a week – the pair got lost in fog before both suffering minor injuries in a fall.

New Zealand Missing HikersNew Zealand Missing HikersPA Images

At a media conference yesterday, May 27, Search and Rescue Sergeant Malcolm York said Jessica and Dion got lost ‘fairly early on in the tramp’ but managed to survive because they did the ‘right thing’.

‘They stayed put and they made themselves visible,’ he explained, as per Radio New Zealand (RNZ). ‘So when we got to that spot, we were able to see them. It’s a long way from anywhere out there… it’s incredibly lucky we got such a good result given the location.’

York said he understood the pair had been without food for ‘quite some time’, with Dion later telling RNZ’s Morning Report the pair decided they needed to find a water source on day seven, after being ‘really disorientated’ by the fog.


By that point, they only had two days worth of food left, and the walkers ultimately spent 13 days without food – their only ‘saving grace’ being a stream of water located two minutes away from where they ended up camping out – until they were rescued yesterday afternoon.

An intensive search and rescue operation had been underway to find the pair since May 19, although search efforts had been hampered by bad weather since Sunday, with the pair eventually being found just before 1pm yesterday.

A search helicopter noticed smoke from their fire and a rescue helicopter was dispatched, with the walkers being found in a forest clearing measuring just three metres by three metres.


They were winched up and about 10 minutes into the ride, Dion said they were given the ‘best chocolate bars I’ve ever had in my life’. A St John spokesperson said staff met the helicopter at Nelson Airport and assessed the patients, before taking them to Nelson Hospital.

New Zealand Missing HikersNew Zealand Missing HikersPA Images

Both Jessica and Dion were said to be in good spirits and only sustained minor injuries, with Jessica hurting her back and Dion straining his ankle.

Both immediately hugged their rescuers when they saw them, and Jessica was said to be ‘very emotional’, with Dion saying he celebrated with his family with drinks and pizza in Nelson last night.


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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: News, dangerous, hiking, Kahurangi National Park, New Zealand, Wilderness


Radio New Zealand and 1 other
  1. Radio New Zealand

    Missing trampers Dion Reynolds and Jessica O'Connor found alive, police confirm

  2. Morning Report RNZ

    Lost pair spent nearly two weeks without food in Kahurangi National Park