Carolyn Lloyd carried her starving and exhausted daughter on her back as the pair tried to escape the relentless New Zealand bush.
The pair were spotted yesterday by Amalgamated Helicopters director and chief pilot Jason Diedrichs after an extensive search of the area surrounding the Kapakapanui Track.
Searching for the women, they saw the word “help” spelled out on a river bed with rocks, punga fronds and sticks. The women, who had made another sign in a bush clearing, were nearby waving their arms.
“They were certainly keen to make their presence known. They were a little bit worse for wear, they’d been in there for four nights out in the open with very little food so they were definitely feeling the effects of that.”
Diedrichs managed to land the helicopter nearby and flew the grateful women out of the bush to waiting paramedics.
“They were physically and mentally very tired so it’s fair to say they were pretty pleased to see us.”
The Lloyds, dehydrated, starving and exhausted, were airlifted to hospital for precautionary checks. Speaking from the family’s home in Charlotte, North Carolina, Carolyn’s husband Barry Lloyd said that finding out his wife and daughter were alive was “the greatest moment of my life”.
He had spoken to them on the phone and was able to relay some of their ordeal.
“They went all the way up to the summit on that trail and on their way back they thought they were following it but [my wife] told me the orange markers turned to blue,” he said.
“They thought that maybe they just changed to blue when you went down. But then they ended – there were no markers – and it got dark.”
The pair huddled together at the base of a tree perched precariously on a steep bank or cliff, he said.
“My wife was frightened to death. She stayed awake all night and held my daughter to keep her warm. The next day when the sun came up they got up and tried to find their way out but it just kept getting worse.”
The pair came across a waterfall and stream and decided to follow it in the hopes of linking up with the path. The terrain was extremely steep, slippery and treacherous so they had to take it very slow.
“My daughter was getting weaker – she doesn’t have a lot of extra meat on her bones – and she couldn’t walk so my wife told me she was carrying her on her back, trying to walk back up the mountains.
“She had a backpack with her so she was carrying that on her front and my daughter on her back.”
By the third day it became clear that Rachel could not walk any further so her mother constructed a makeshift-camp, creating a bed out of fern fronds.
“My daughter usually eats, like, 10 times a day. She’s one of these people who can eat every two hours and just burn it off.
“But she didn’t have any fuel in her body so she couldn’t go any further.”
Carolyn also constructed a “help” sign should a helicopter pass overhead, then huddled close to her daughter for a fourth night.
Rachel Lloyd (left), 22, is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is living in New Zealand to attend Massey University. Carolyn Lloyd (right) carried her daughter on her back after she became too weak to walk.
Barry said his wife was “amazing” for her heroic efforts and said he felt “blessed” that they had been found.
“I don’t think I could have made it through another night not knowing,” he said.
His sons had flown from Chicago to be with him and they had planned to travel to New Zealand within the next 24 hours if they had not been found.
“I had just picked up a pizza and [a New Zealand police officer] called and told me that they were were alive and on their way to the hospital. It was the greatest moment of my life,” he said.