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Cliff-plunge woman 'one tough lady'

Published: 10:05AM Sunday April 22, 2012 Source: ONE News

A 74-year-old woman is recovering in hospital after spending three nights trapped down a cliff with no food or water.

Family say Shirley Loft will be back on her feet in no time after her car plunged down a steep bank in Kuaotunu, north of Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula.

They told ONE News reporter Kate Lynch Loft is one "tough lady with a very big heart".

Loft went missing on Thursday after telling her brother she was planning to drive from Whitianga to Coroglen.

After three days of ground and aerial searches turned up nothing, neighbour Geoff Gillett and his friend Valance McLaughlin turned detective.

They set out this morning and noticed scuff marks on the edge of a drop at a rest area.

They then climbed down to investigate and eventually found Loft's mangled car.

"She wasn't in the car, but we went about another 100 metres down the bank and found her lying in the scrub yelling for help," Gillett told ONE News.

"She said to me 'what the hell are you doing here?'".

While McLaughlin climbed back up the 200m bank to raise the alarm, Gillett stayed with Loft to comfort her.

She told him how she had flown backwards off the cliff.

"She was going up the road and then realised there was road works and decided to turn around, backed into a little reserve," said Gillett.

"She said she then put her car into reverse instead of forward and the rest was history."

Before long members of the Kuaotunu and Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigades arrived along with local ambulance crews to rescue the woman.

Loft was winched aboard a rescue helicopter and flown to Thames Hospital where she was treated for minor injuries to her legs.

Police have called Gillett's actions "life-saving".

"Undoubtedly Geoff saved her life. He's the hero in this story for sure," said Constable Don Edgecombe.

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