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Rescuers opted not to amputate boy's leg

Tuesday 3 Jan 2012 11:07 a.m.

Dion Latta

Dion Latta

Rescuers considered amputating the leg of a boy who was trapped upside down in a waterfall near Wanaka and later died.

Dion Latta, of Palmerston, was exploring the Motatapu Gorge behind Glendhu Bay with a group of friends on Sunday night when his foot got trapped at the top of the 3.5m waterfall.

Dion, 15, survived the three-hour rescue operation by breathing in an airpocket while water poured over him, but he was suffering from severe hypothermia when removed and later died in Dunedin Hospital.

Phillip Melchior from Wanaka's Land Search and Rescue said rescuers considered "all options ... when it became obvious that this was not going to be a quick and easy extraction."

They looked at amputating his leg but decided the risk of such an operation was too great.

"The general medical opinion was that the shock involved in that could anyway have been fatal," Mr Melchior told Radio New Zealand.

"Unfortunately despite the extraordinary efforts that were made by our team down in the gorge to keep him alive and give him CPR and all the rest of it, in the end it wasn't enough."

He said the death had taken a bigger than usual toll on rescuers who had put in a "250 per cent effort" to save the boy.

"When you've got a young life that had so much promise and you struggle so hard to try and save it, it's always kind of worse than other ones," Mr Melchior said.

He confirmed there had been a fatality in the same gorge a few years ago and said it was a "pretty ugly" spot when viewed from above.

"But it's also a pretty popular spot over summer when you're getting good weather like we are now."

NZN

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