A FATHER and son had an emotional reunion with their family on Tuesday after three nights lost in the bush.
Their ordeal ended when they were discovered by a Southland Express reporter on a remote Fiordland road.
Family members yesterday rushed to greet the missing Southland pair, Alan Mortimore (49) and 14-year-old son Danny, when they were dropped off by the Express at Thicket Burn Campsite in Fiordland National Park. The family members had their hands to their mouths, stunned to see the pair ‘‘home’’.
Mr Mortimore and his son were reported missing after failing to return from a hunt near Lake Hauroko on Saturday evening.
About noon the pair were walking in a paddock at Lillburn Valley Rd about 2km from the campsite when this reporter came across them.
As soon as they were approached, Mr Mortimore introduced himself and his son and said he had been in the bush for the past three days.
‘‘We are very tired, as you can imagine,’’ he said.
After getting help to jump a fence, they were taken to the campsite where family and police were based.
In the short drive there, both said they were relieved to be located and said they survived by drinking water from a creek and eating bars and fruit they had in their bags.
Danny had twisted his ankle and Alan had become disoriented for a period.
They had scratches and cuts to their legs but were otherwise in good condition. Mr Mortimore said his years in the army helped him as he had remembered techniques used to survive cold temperatures at night.
He and his son slept behind fallen trees and were protected by them.
They had seen helicopters involved in the search and Mr Mortimore fired a shot to get their attention, but to no avail.
When he saw his family, he could not hide his grin.
After about half an hour catching up with family, both were transported to Southland Hospital by helicopter.
Mr Mortimore’s father, Gavin Mortimore, was ‘‘over the moon’’ to be reunited with the pair.
The pair had travelled from Invercargill to Fiordland to celebrate the 75th birthday of one Alan’s mates, he said.
‘‘As Danny had never been in the bush before, Alan decided to bring him.’’
He said his son got disoriented due to the lack of water but fortunately they found a creek.
Alan also remembered to keep walking east, so he just ‘‘kept going’’.
The family said they could not thank police and rescue volunteers enough.
‘‘It is a huge relief to see them safe and well. We tried to be positive during those days but it was a really stressful time for everyone.
‘‘I believe my son learnt a huge lesson today.’’
Sergeant Ian Martin said 35 people, including LandSAR volunteers and Police Search and Rescue staff, conducted ground searches in the area since Sunday.
He was pleased with the outcome and wanted to highlight the importance of having the correct gear.
‘‘You shouldn’t get out in the bush without a compass, a map and a personal locator beacon.’’