A mass rescue operation saw at least 110 people evacuated from an ultra-marathon event after heavy rain caused the Arrow River to rise. Photo / James Allan
A competitor in a South Island ultra-marathon which saw 110 racers evacuated as heavy rain hit says the event should have been called off due to “treacherous conditions”.
Seven participants and one official of the Southern Lakes Ultra Marathon had to be rescued from Macetown, near Arrowtown, and flown to Queenstown Lakes Hospital with mild hypothermia after heavy overnight rain caused the Arrow River to rise.
One athlete, who the Herald has agreed not to name, said while the safety crew was “very competent” and kept people alive, the race should have been called off earlier and river levels checked more frequently.
”Conditions on the mountain were treacherous in the dark for an event which was pitched for beginner ultra competitors. ‘Show must go on mentality’ seems tone deaf.”
The competition has been approached for comment.
The participant said although safety crews and volunteers had been “amazing”, they believed management had not listened to early concerns about safety on the mountain during darkness and in that weather.
”Also people being sent into thigh-high water on their own in the dark. We have been told race will go on – but not everyone will be ranked.”
The racer said it seemed questionable to carry on with the race after so many people were rescued or pulled off the course for safety reasons.
The competitor also said they were being asked not to comment to the media or post on social media.
The Rescue Coordination Centre said it was first alerted to a developing situation after a beacon activation in Macetown at 1am.
Nine further personal locator beacons were activated soon after.
Rescue Coordination Centre Operations Manager Michael Clulow said communication was established with the race management and RCCNZ was focused on finding out where people were, and what their support needs were.
In a statement from Southern Lakes shortly before 1.45pm, it was announced all athletes and crew involved in the event had been accounted for, that they were safe and well.
“All athletes who were evacuated and taken to hospital have now been discharged and are doing well,” the statement read.
Clulow called the rescue effort “a collaborative response”, which included New Zealand Police Search and Rescue, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, and Queenstown rescue helicopters.
“We want to thank the staff on the ground who supported this rescue effort,” he said.
The Southern Lakes Ultra started on Sunday, February 19, and is a seven-day, six-stage race through the Southern Lakes in Central Otago.