NGS were advised of a situation in Peru where a geological team had failed to return to their base after a planned trip into the mountain region.
The team were reported as being five days overdue. There was poor weather conditions in the area at the time, and the team were not adequately equipped for an extended period in such a harsh environment.
Because the expedition had no specific route, the search area was approximately 100 square miles
NGS immediately communicated with a range of in-country specialists and instigated a Major Incident Plan after the initial conference call in which the situation was discussed with the client. A dedicated operations manager with extensive experience in the field was allocated to oversee and manage the whole search and rescue task. Assets deployed: • B-200 light search aircraft • Other fixed-wing assets on an opportunity basis • Mi-17 helicopter hired from the military • High mountain rescue team • Police and military liaison officers • Intelligence gathering team • Medical team • Psychological care team.
The poor weather conditions resulted in the local police being insufficiently prepared for their initial search, which they subsequently abandoned. This left only the better-equipped NGS assets willing to continue, even providing national search teams with equipment and warm weather clothing to facilitate their redeployment. The search area was in a remote part of Peru’s mountain terrain, heavily controlled by the Rondas Campedeinas (a local militia-type group) who are violently opposed to mining by international companies. Because the expedition had no specific route, the search area was approximately 100 square miles.
The issue was complicated by geography, weather, distance, local animosity and the large number of stakeholders involved
Result of the operation
The search operation ended with six of the support team being located close to the town of Carmen on day seven after they became separated from the geologists. They were all ill and injured but survived. On day 11, a seventh member of the team was found alive and evacuated to Piura for medical treatment. The survivor was able to indicate an approximate position for the remaining three personnel who had become too ill to continue with him. On day 15, the search team located the position of the remaining three personnel, who had all sadly succumbed to exposure. Their remains were repatriated to Piura shortly afterwards by helicopter.