Costly search for hurt boatie

By Amy McGillivray, Sonya Bateson

An injured boatie is recovering in the orthopaedic ward following an accident that sparked a one-and-a-half hour search at sea.

A cellphone call to St John, about 8pm on Saturday, reported the 35-year-old was bleeding profusely after falling through a window on his boat.

The TrustPower TECT rescue helicopter was called and the initial plan was to winch a paramedic on to the injured man's boat.

As light faded, emergency services were unable to contact the man via cellphone or radio, and the decision was made to send a paramedic out on the Coastguard boat while the helicopter tried to locate it from overhead.

Pilot Todd Dunham spent 90 minutes searching for the boat, believed to be 5km out to sea from the harbour entrance, before it was spotted at Pilot Bay.

"We searched for about an hour and a half. Just as we were coming back for fuel they found the boat in Pilot Bay," Mr Dunham said.

A St John spokesperson said a Te Puke ambulance picked up the injured man from Pilot Bay about 10.45pm.

He had a bad cut to his right wrist and was taken to hospital in a serious condition, he said.

Tauranga Coastguard operations manager Simon Barker said the only way emergency services could get hold of the man was by cellphone, which kept going dead.

"By the time they found the boat, it was already in the harbour.

"We dropped the paramedic off and weren't needed any more," he said.

Mr Dunham said he believed the boat was located by a Port of Tauranga pilot boat, which had also been helping with the search.

He would not reveal the cost of the rescue helicopter's involvement in the search but said it was a "substantial bit of money".

"It's a lot of money. You think of the expense and the time.

"We were out there until 11.30pm," he said.

It has previously been reported the cost of fuel to keep such a helicopter airborne is almost $600 per hour.

Mr Barker said the rescue call-out cost Coastguard about $300 in petrol.

with APN News and Media

- Bay of Plenty Times

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