With still a couple of days to go, 2021 has already proven to be the busiest year on record for Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.
By Tuesday evening this week, the organisation's air ambulance crews had racked up their 1212th mission of the year - a woman in her 70s who was flown from Pauanui to Auckland City Hospital in serious condition following a medical incident.
The total number of missions for all of 2020 - which itself was a record-breaking year - was 1187.
But those increases have been by design, says communications manager Lincoln Davies.
The organisation continues to take part in a sector-wide trial in which air ambulances are more quickly and frequently dispatched to cases where there's a good chance the patient is severely unwell or injured. The trial, described by the trust as a "positive reform in patient care", has contributed to an estimated 20 per cent increase in mission numbers in recent years.
This year's record-shattering total will no doubt be larger by end of the night on January 31, Davies said.
"We're pretty flat tack - that's the nature of the job at this time of the year," he said, explaining that as more people venture outdoors to enjoy the sun it results in a piling on of not just medical events but accidents and search and rescue-type missions.
"Unfortunately, as more people are out and about more accidents happen."
This year has seen 28 missions in the five-day period between Christmas Eve and Tuesday - up two from the same period in 2020.
The holiday callouts have included:
• transport of a woman in her 40s to Auckland Hospital after she suffered critical injuries falling from a flying fox at Shelly Beach on the Kaipara Harbour around 7pm on Christmas Eve;
• assisting the Christmas Eve search for a missing fisherman off Coromandel's Kennedy Bay whose body was found the following day;
• two back-to-back flights to Great Barrier Island on Christmas day for a woman in her 40s who had fallen and a man in his 50s who was suffering a medical event;
• assisting a girl in Meremere who was moderately injured on Boxing Day in a crash involving a car and a pedestrian;
• a fatal drowning at Waiwera Beach on Boxing Day involving a man in his 50s;
• a diving accident in Dargaville on December 27 involving a man in his 40s who was flown to North Shore Hospital in serious condition;
• a three-vehicle crash in Huntly later that day that resulted in the death of a motorcyclist; and
• a flight on Tuesday morning to transfer a boy from Waikato Hospital to Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland after a crash in which a stolen car crashed into a ditch injuring the five children between the ages of 10 and 13 who were inside.
This year marks the eighth consecutive time that the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter has logged more than 1000 missions.
The service was established in 1970, with crews having attended over 24,000 missions since then.