A Coromandel man has undergone brain surgery after being hit in the head by a helicopter blade near Thames yesterday.
The man, who is understood to be a worker at the Puriri Hotel, 14km southeast of Thames, had been helping a group of sightseers into a helicopter outside the hotel about 11am when he was hit by the rotating blade.
Eyewitnesses said the man walked back into the hotel and appeared dazed and disoriented.
It was only when someone noticed blood on the man's neck that anyone realised he had been injured.
The man was taken by ambulance from Puriri to Waikato Hospital.
St John Ambulance paramedics said his injuries were more like a hit than a cut.
Westpac Waikato air ambulance pilot Sue Dinkelacker flew the man from Waikato Hospital to Auckland about 1pm where he underwent urgent neurosurgery.
"They were waiting for him, the operating theatre doors were open when we landed and he was wheeled straight in for surgery," she said.
The man was today in a critical condition in Auckland Hospital.
The Puriri Hotel's manager would not comment last night and could not be contacted today.
The flight was being run by Miller Helicopters, a family-run aviation company based at nearby Matatoki.
Chief pilot and operating manager Simon Miller did not return calls today.
The company was established in the 1980s and provides air transport, commercial and agricultural operations.
Mr Miller -- who joined the company in 1997 -- has been involved with aviation since he was a child and is the second generation of the family to run the company after it was started by Paul and Frouk Miller.
Paul Miller was killed when the mail plane he was flying crashed off the Kapiti Coast in October 2003.
Mrs Dinkelacker said one of the biggest concerns for helicopter pilots was safety around rotor blades.
"Every time we have passengers on the air ambulance helicopter we warn about the dangers of the rotor blades in a safety lecture.
"I know, for instance, the type of helicopter we use has been involved in fatal accidents and it's something we are constantly aware of," she said.
Mrs Dinkelacker said one of the most dangerous scenarios was when a helicopter landed on a slope and people got out on the uphill side.
"You're close to the blades with the ground sloping up," she said.
A helicopter's main rotorblades can often dip in the wind when starting up and pilots can't control them until sufficient power is built up, she said.
The other major risk is people walking into tail rotors.
"It's best to load people on board either with the blades fully stopped or when sufficient power was gained (to control them)."