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Difficult Haurangi rescue

June 18, 2019 June 2019 No Comments

Joe and Sue enjoy a day at home on their farm following Joe’s recovery. Photo courtesy Pete Monk.

Joe Bannister and his friend Dave were in the Haurangi Forest Park. After a long day out in the bush, Joe was heading down a steep hill when the ground gave way and sent him sliding down a cliff face.

He fell six metres, badly injuring his leg in the process.

“On the way down my boot got caught in some bedrock sticking out from the side. It cranked my foot at right angles, ripped all the ligaments off my ankle and broke one of the bones below the knee.”

In addition to a broken leg, it was also getting dark and cold. Joe would not be able to walk out on his own in his condition and hypothermia was a very real threat.

Fortunately, Joe was carrying a personal locator beacon with him. His emergency signal was sent.

The Life Flight team soon received the call. Within minutes our team had made a flight plan, loaded rescue and medical equipment, launched our Westpac Chopper, and flew to Haurangi Forest Park.

Arriving at the scene, our team immediately knew it wasn’t going to be an easy rescue. It was pitch black and very windy, and Joe was stuck in a steep valley. As Crewman Mike Beausoleil recalls:

“Darkness was one of the big challenges. We do operate in the dark but there are varying degrees; it ended up being a particularly dark night.”

Mike continues, “The Rescue Coordination Centre had given us rough coordinates.

“That brought us close enough for Joe and Dave to make visual contact with us via torch light. We couldn’t actually see them because it was just a big black valley below, but we saw two lights that were obviously waving at us as we flew over.”

Pilot Harry  Stevenson had to keep the helicopter hovering steadily in the strong wind while Mike operated the winch, sending Paramedic Hernan Holliday down to recover Joe.

It was challenging, but because of the team’s incredible training – made possible thanks to your amazing support – Joe was safely and swiftly rescued.

“The retrieval was really challenging because it was right down the very bottom of a small stream. The river was the only place the paramedic could get Joe to that had a clear sky above him, so that I could lift him out.
They were standing in water up to their waists about 160 feet below the helicopter. That’s the longest  operational winch I’ve ever done. And even with night vision goggles, at 160 feet down, it starts to get really difficult to see what’s going on.”

Joe is very grateful to Mike and the team for rescuing him in such challenging circumstances.

This kind of outcome simply wouldn’t be possible without your support, as Mike agrees:

“We want to get everyone home safely, not just the patient but us as well, so we’re lucky we’ve got all the support we do from the community. It allows us to invest in training our crew and be out there flying every day and night when people need us.”

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