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Hiker faces NT$130,000 fine for 'escaping' from rescue team in Taiwan mountains

Hiker 'escapes' from rescue crew, only to call for another rescue days later from a Taiwan mountain

Yeh (center).

Yeh (center). (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A hiker was fined after he "escaped" from a team dispatched to rescue him from the mountains in central Taiwan during Typhoon Mangkhut, only to request a second rescue a day later, which could result in a hefty fine of NT$130,000 (US$4,200), reported CNA.

On Aug. 31, a 51-year-old hiker, surnamed Yeh (葉), began hiking the southern third section of the Central Mountain Range from Mizui Township in Hualien County. He was expected to descend from his mountain trek near Xinyi Township in Nantou County on Sept. 10.

However, Yeh's family lost contact with him on Sept. 4. On Sept. 12, his family received a text message from him saying he was near Dandaxi camp ground.

As he said he lost his footing on slippery terrain and had injured his waist and shoulders, his family was worried about his condition. His family alerted the Nantou County Fire Department which deployed search and rescue teams to Zhushan, Shuili, Xinyi and Yushan.

On Sept. 15, rescuers found Yeh on Wushuang Mountain near Nantou County's Xinyi Township. As conditions were too dangerous for an extraction by air at the time, rescuers and Yeh pitched tents for the night, even posing for a photo with one of them.

However, in a bizarre twist, Yeh packed up his tent and left before the rescuers awoke the next day, vanishing without a trace.

On Sept. 17, suddenly contacted his family again and told them that he was at the triangulation marker of Wushuang Mountain and reportedly said, "Please ask Mama to help me request the air police to rescue me, I'm safe." The fire department then requested the support of the National Airborne Service Corps and a helicopter was dispatched to Wushuang Mountain that morning.

A helicopter crew located Yeh, harnessed him to a hoist and pulled him onboard. After the helicopter landed at the fire department's training center in Zhushan Township, he was transported to the Chu Shang Show Chwan Hospital.

Yeh said he had contusions to his waist, shoulders, hands and feet and could no longer walk, so he stayed at Dandaxi camp ground for two days. He said he was not well enough to take pain killers and was short on supplies.

However, when he was being transported by ambulance, he refused to undergo a medical examination and said he would take a little rest instead.

Yeh told reporters gathered in front of the hospital that he was injured and unwell, and when asked why he left the search and rescue team behind, he said he was "unclear, did not know, unaware" and he hoped that the media would stop asking and "bothering him." Yeh's wife said that her husband might be tired and mentally fatigued from the ordeal, and she apologized on his behalf.

Yeh then left the hospital accompanied by his wife, leaving many medical staff members "shocked at the waste of social resources."

In order to rescue Yeh, the search and rescue team had to brave the brunt of Typhoon Mangkhut as they ventured into the mountains to try to find him. One the team members had to be airlifted on Sept. 13 due to altitude sickness.

Seven rescue team members involved in the search returned by helicopter from the mountain on Sept. 17, while a volunteer firefighter who had first found Yeh trekked all the way from the peak of Wushung Mountain to the trailhead.

Yeh had applied to go hiking in Hualien, but he did not apply to hike in Nantou and deviated greatly from his original planned trek. Nantou Government Fire Station Section Chief Chen Hung-ming (陳泓銘) told CNA that Yeh had entered a specially controlled mountain area alone, engaged in mountaineering activities that did not follow his original stated plans, had no primary emergency rescue capability and no mountaineering insurance.

Chen said that according to Articles 4 and 6 of the regulations governing the management of mountaineering activities in Nantou County, Yeh has committed three offenses for which the fire department intends on imposing the maximum penalty of NT$130,000. If enforced, this would represent the first time that a fine had been imposed since the regulations went into effect on Feb. 2 of last year.

Today, Yeh and his wife went to the Third Brigade of the Nantou Fire Department to apologize in person saying, "I am sorry, thank you for your help!" However, the brigade's commander Lin Cheng-I (林正宜) said despite Yeh's bow and apology, he will still seek punishment and compensation in accordance with the law, reported Apple Daily.