Six Servicemen Die in Training Exercise
HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) _ Six soldiers died when a blizzard trapped them during a winter training exercise, officials said today.
Police spokesman Sgt. Darryl Nix said the bodies were found Monday only 150 yards from an emergency shelter on 9,177-foot Mount Ruapehu. The hut has six bunks and emergency rations, but it ″may as well have been 150 miles in those conditions,″ Nix said.
The bodies will remain on the mountain until the weather clears so rescue teams and helicopters can move in safely. It was raining heavily today.
The victims, ranging in age from 18 to 23, were part of a 13-member army and navy group which had been on the mountain since Thursday as part of an adventure training course. When a blizzard cut off their escape from the mountain, they were forced to dig in.
Two of the soldiers began an 11-hour trek Sunday night to find help. When a search party reached the group Monday afternoon, six already were dead. The other five were brought down for treatment of exposure.
Parliament observed a minute’s silence for the victims today. A military court of inquiry into the deaths was scheduled to begin Wednesday.
Mount Ruapehu is in the rugged center of New Zealand’s North Island, about 100 miles south of Hamilton.