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Ronnie Fong, Missing New Zealand Man, 'Kept Walking' To Survive Sub-Zero Temperatures

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RONNIE FUNG
ONE News

At 3:30 PM Saturday, Fong texted his younger brother:

"Gonne be late so don't call SAR."

"SAR" stands for Search and Rescue, and "late" eventually came to mean missing entirely. A team of more than 70 had been searching for Fong for three days when they finally found him in a remote part of the Hunua Ranges, Auckland's largest forested landscape.

The mountain ranges are equipped with tramping tracks and other attractions for hikers, while certain parts are only accessible to experienced trampers. "Tramping" is a popular New Zealand pastime that involves hiking the back country. It's also known as "bushwhacking."

According to the NZ Herald, Fong is an experienced tramper.

Fong, 39, is a bioengineer at Middlemore Hospital who moved to Auckland from Fiji about 18 years ago. His family said he's physically and mentally fit.

He had set out for a four-hour walk from Hunua Falls Saturday morning and was expected to be picked up at 3 p.m.

"He's into martial arts, he hikes every weekend," Fong's sister, Margaret, told ONE News.

He faced the coldest night of the year on Saturday night— at one point the temperature dropped below three degrees. Having ventured off in only a light T-shirt, jacket and shorts, his family was concerned in the days leading up to his rescue.

But it turns out Fong was better prepared than rescuers had thought — in more ways than one.

"What he did was cover himself with fringes and mud to create an insulation layer, but that failed so he got up and kept moving to keep warm," Auckland Search and Rescue coordinator Sergeant Dene Duthie told Radio New Zealand.

"He actually had a few more shirts and a water proof jacket, and a bit more food as well," said Duthie.

A previous ONE Newsreport speculated Fong likely he confused a dark bate line for a walking track.

Margaret Fong told The Dominion Post she was worried he might be injured, but said when searchers found part of an energy bar wrapper that Fong was known to carry with him, she grew new hope for his rescue.

Weather conditions improved after the first night. When Fong was finally found at around 7 p.m. Tuesday evening, he was still walking and did not need immediate medical attention.

"He was really tired and cold. We fed him and warmed him up, and sent him home," said Duthie.

In March, an Arizona woman was found alive after being missing for nearly a month. She had lost more than one-third of her body weight and her cat, who had traveled with her, never left her side.

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