A Wairarapa woman who died after trying to rescue her cat from a cabbage tree was stuck in its branches for up to two hours before she was found.

Gaylene Dunne, 55, died in December 2014 of complications to a muscle injury to her foot after it became stuck where tree branches split into a "y" shape, a coroner has ruled.

The tree was at the back of the Carterton flat where she lived alone with her cat.

Dunne's sister questioned whether Masterton Hospital showed enough urgency for her sister's deteriorating condition, but coroner T. Scott ruled the care was adequate.

Advertisement

Neighbour Rose Martin found Dunne up to two hours after she became stuck.

Martin had been alerted by a loud banging, and found Dunne in the tree half an hour later, banging on a corrugated iron fence in her back garden.

"For about three hours it went on - she was calling out and kicking the tin fence and going 'oi oi oi', and of course I took no notice, but then eventually she called my name and I clicked straight away," Martin told the Herald.

Dunne told Martin she had been trying to rescue her cat when her foot got wedged in the tree.

Gaylene Dunne's neighbour Rose Martin (pictured) found her stuck in a cabbage tree at the back of the flat after searching for half an hour. Photo/ Seamus Boyer
Gaylene Dunne's neighbour Rose Martin (pictured) found her stuck in a cabbage tree at the back of the flat after searching for half an hour. Photo/ Seamus Boyer

Dunne, Martin and a third neighbour could not free her foot from the tree and the fire service and ambulance were called.

Fire services were able to release Dunne.

When the ambulance arrived shortly after 9pm, Dunne was unable to bear weight on her right leg and her right foot was swollen and bruised. Otherwise she seemed okay.

"She walked to the ambulance and hopped in - she didn't want to go but we said she should," Martin said.

Then, Dunne's heart rate became elevated and her blood oxygen levels dropped so she was taken to Masterton Hospital, where she was kept overnight.

By 1.30am her vital signs were deteriorating. Dunne was short of breath and her inner legs were bruised.

At 7.30am she was flown by helicopter to Wellington Hospital's ICU, where she died that afternoon.

The coroner ruled her death was a result of "rhabdomyolosis", a condition where skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly and which can be caused by a crush injury.

Her sister questioned the adequacy of Masterton Hospital's care and whether they had acted in a timely manner in treating her sister.

An investigation by a police officer trained in forensic medicine criticised the hospital's record keeping and its underestimation of the shock Dunne had been in but concluded the standard of care was adequate.

The officer said he did not think Dunne being transferred to Wellington Hospital earlier was likely to have changed the outcome.