New winch used to save lives

By Brendan Manning

The Western Bay rescue chopper saved dozens of lost or injured people last year on rescue missions to quad bike accidents, search and rescues, forestry and farm mishaps, and fatal car crashes.

The Tauranga-based TrustPower TECT Rescue Helicopter conducted 84 flights last year. Most (48) were air ambulance/rescue missions, 24 were inter-hospital transfers and 12 were search and rescue/police assistance flights.

Most of the rescue missions were medical emergencies, followed by motorbike accidents, farming and forestry accidents, and serious car crashes.

Rescue chopper pilot and base manager Liam Brettkelly told the Bay of Plenty Times some of the more interesting rescues last year involved the helicopter's new winch.

"We've been operational with a winch for a year now.

"One in particular was a forestry worker who fell 100m down a bank and then off a bluff at the end of it.

"He was pretty well banged up ... I used a winch to retrieve him."

The team would not have been able to rescue the worker without the winch, Mr Brettkelly said.

Bad weather restricted and prevented some rescues but the crew had to ensure their own safety when trying to save others.

"We've got three people on-board the aircraft, we've all got families to come home to, so you've got to take that into account."

Rescues last year included transferring a teenager from Motuhoa Island in Tauranga Harbour to hospital after he stepped on a stingray barb in May.

The barb, which had become detached from the stingray, penetrated the 17-year-old's foot while he was on the island as part of an educational programme.

Also, in June the rescue helicopter transferred a 68-year-old Mount Maunganui man to Auckland's Devonport Naval Base as he required hospital treatment for the bends.

The man had being diving off the Tauranga coast, but began to feel unwell after surfacing.

It was decided he need treatment in the hyperbaric chamber at Devonport.

In August, a woman was airlifted to Whakatane Hospital after she was seriously assaulted.

The 51-year-old woman from Te Kaha was flown to the hospital suffering serious injuries to her face.

Mr Brettkelly said the helicopter's two main sponsors TrustPower and TECT had signed on for another three years.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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