Rescue Runner Turns Volunteer
By OLIVIA WANNAN (Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/8578847/Rescued-runner-turns-volunteer)
He knows what it is like to be rescued from the bush, and now Alastair Shelton is returning the favour.
The Wellington mountain runner triggered an intensive three-day search operation after getting lost on a run just before New Year's Eve last year. He was spotted by a helicopter more than 50 hours after he started running the Holdsworth Jumbo Circuit track, inland from Masterton.
He "had no idea" of the size of the search operation looking for him while he was lost in the bush, he said.
"When I came back I was blown away by the scale of everything."
Mr Shelton signed up with the New Zealand Land Search and Rescue volunteer organisation almost straight after his own rescue, underwent initial training, and is now a probationary member.
"I was so impressed with all the effort and all the people who had volunteered their time to look for me, and thought I wanted to give something back somehow."
At times during his training, he had even met "quite a few" LandSAR members who were involved in his search.
"It's quite interesting - hearing their side of the story."
Mr Shelton was also part of search and rescue's two-day practice exercise in the Rimutaka Forest Park this weekend.
"For a complete newbie like me it's good to get out and get a training run, learning stuff from the teams you're with."
A number of search and rescue volunteers had joined LandSAR after a similar experience to Mr Shelton's or because they could imagine the danger of being in such a scenario, chairman Ross Browne said.
"Everyone's very community-minded."
During the weekend simulation, search and rescue volunteers were joined by members of the police, Air Force, Defence Force and Department of Conservation for their biggest training drill in three years.
Mr Browne said 63 people were involved in the operation, which started early on Saturday morning, playing out a scenario of two Scout groups lost in the forest park.
Last year, LandSAR rescued about 40 people, including Mr Shelton, in the 26 operations they conducted with police, with 7500 man-hours volunteered.