20-year-old American student Ally Willen went missing after crossing the Gillespie Pass with two other young American female students in torrential rain, hail and gale force winds.
Ally died – while making her way, alone, through flood water covering a section of the Gillespie Pass tramping track. Ally needed to negotiate the flooded track alongside the Young river to spend the night at the Young hut. She most likely had fallen or tripped or slipped into the river. Ally’s body was recovered from the river after the water level had subsided. Wanaka Search and Rescue volunteers found her body near where her backpack and raincoat were located.
This was a significant operation for Wanaka Search and Rescue; the River Rescue teams attached a waterproof camera to a pole and inserted it into the many rapids. A tablet was then attached to the camera to check if there was any sign of Ally in the feisty river. The sub-alpine team were searching the track and river-bed on-foot and also while suspended out of a helicopter combing the Young river. Meanwhile the Marine team were searching the headwaters of Lake Wanaka in the event that Ally’s body had been washed through the Young and Makarora rivers to the lake. Because this operation was in a remote part of the National Park a special Communication device had to be erected on a nearby high peak so that the teams could talk to SARbase.