Cliff rescue in Dannevirke after fall

By Christine McKay

Helping in the garden turned into a major rescue after a 82-year-old Dannevirke woman fell at least 30 metres down a cliff.

"It was quite a fall as the bank really is verging on a cliff face," Dannevirke fire chief Mike Finucane said.

The woman had been assisting another elderly person at the address in the garden on Friday night and as she was trying to get rid of weeds over the bank, stumbled and fell, Mr Finucane said.

Emergency services, including the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter, were called to the property at the end of McPhee St at 5pm.

Steve Yanko, the St John ambulance operations manager, flew in with the rescue helicopter which had initially been called because of the possibility of its winch being needed for the rescue.

"The cliff was steep, but the woman was conscious and talking to emergency personnel throughout her ordeal," Mr Yanko said. "She was lucky the surface was relatively soft and she hadn't fallen to the bottom, but she was a bit sore because she was wedged in down there."

Mr Finucane said the alarm had been raised by another woman at the property who noticed the woman over the edge, and the Dannevirke Volunteer Fire Brigade were able to lower a brigade member and a St John member down the cliff.

"We were lucky," Mr Finucane said.

"One of our volunteers is trained in abseiling and line rescue work. We were able to use his gear for the rescue and we also had two fire brigade members transported in by quad bike to the bottom of the cliff."

A Ferno Washington stretcher was used to bring the woman back up the cliff during a rescue operation which took almost two hours.

"We had a St John person halfway up the bank to ensure the woman was coping and the stretcher was the ideal device and we were able to haul the woman up the cliff face safely," Mr Finucane said.

Mr Yanko said the woman had been "beaten about" by the fall but was talking to her rescuers and complaining of back and chest pains.

"This rescue was a great example of emergency services all working together for the good of the patient," he said.

Mr Finucane agreed, saying everyone at the rescue communicated well and discussed the best options for the woman, who suffered moderate injuries. She was flown by helicopter to Palmerston North Hospital. Yesterday, a hospital spokesperson said she was in a stable condition.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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