Air rescue challenge for Carterton crew

By Alisa Yong alisa.yong@age.co.nz -
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Carterton's Amalgamated Helicopters landed near Girdlestone to rescue the man. PHOTO/FILE
Carterton's Amalgamated Helicopters landed near Girdlestone to rescue the man. PHOTO/FILE

An injured tramper has been spared a night alone on the tops after a Carterton-based helicopter crew raced against nightfall to rescue him.

The 53-year-old Wellington man received compound fractures to his leg after tumbling 40 metres down a bluff near Tarn Ridge Hut, close to the Girdlestone peak in the Tararuas on Monday.

After activating his personal locator beacon, the solo tramper dragged himself uphill across steep terrain to try to get cellphone coverage and to be more visible for a helicopter pick-up.

A Palmerston North-based rescue helicopter tried twice to rescue him but was unable to complete the mission due to the weather, so an Amalgamated Helicopter crew was tasked with the job.

Search and Rescue squad member Constable Hayden Robinson said with intermittent cloud cover limiting helicopter access, and daylight fading fast, the crew were racing against the clock to airlift the man.

"It was a really quick snatch and grab operation because of the time of day -- it was a get in and get out sort of operation.

"[Nightfall] was pretty close and that's why it was a difficult operation. They did bloody well."

The man was near the track but in an exposed location on the tops, at an elevation of about 1450m.

"It wouldn't have been a very pleasant night and I would hate to think what would have happened if we didn't get him out."

The tramper, who was in an "incredible amount of pain", was flown to Wairarapa Hospital, where he was still recovering yesterday, Mr Robinson said.

A team of search and rescue volunteers were alerted but stood down after the helicopter crew collected the tramper.

Mr Robinson said the Carterton helicopter crew had done an excellent job in tough conditions.

"There was cloud cover coming and going so there was only a small window to get in there, so a huge thanks goes out to LandSAR and especially the Amalgamated Helicopter crew.

"They did a fantastic job considering the conditions they faced. If it weren't for the effort of the team at Amalgamated Helicopters the outcome could've been quite different."

The rescued man, an experienced tramper and a father-of-three, also deserved praise for doing everything right, Mr Robinson said.

"He's done all the right things so some of the credit goes to him for obviously being prepared, and keeping a cool head considering the circumstances."

Jason Diedrichs (JD), of Amalgamated Helicopters, said cloudy weather and fading daylight made for a challenging rescue.

"We were just glad we could help out. I guess it was late in the day and we were a bit pushed against nightfall and the cloud was coming and going at times."

The team, who frequently fly hunters into the ranges and service huts for DoC, were pleased to be able to use their local knowledge to help, he said.

"We are a local commercial operator and we have been involved with search and rescue and police call-outs for many years -- since 1987. We are just happy to be able to assist when other helicopters may not be able to."

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