A chopper pilot and his support crew saved the day for an elderly woman who was stranded and unable to get to an urgent health appointment.
Marilyn Crawford, 80, was left in a precarious situation last Tuesday, needing urgent radiotherapy treatment in Christchurch but unable to get across the Ashburton Bridge.
Earlier that morning, the Ashburton Bridge along State Highway 1 was closed, a casualty of the Canterbury floods which required urgent structural assessment and reinforcement.
The closure not only split Ashburton town from Tinwald but effectively cut off access between the upper and lower South Island.
"We had no alternate means, no alternate route and no other way of getting her there," daughter Paule Crawford said.
Multiple phone calls around the town eventually led her to Independent Helicopters' Mark "Tweezers" Read.
The Christchurch-based chopper pilot had been working in conjunction with Ashburton contracting firm Greg Donaldson Contracting Ltd (GDC), based on the southern side of the bridge.
"I had a conversation with the pilot and he said if you can get your mum here before 1pm, we'll transfer her over the river for you and she can get on her merry way to Christchurch," Crawford said.
Although unwell and largely immobile, Crawford said her mum was up for the flight.
"She said 'yep I'm fair game, I'm getting to that appointment, come hell or high water.'"
"We couldn't afford a delayed meeting."
Getting Marilyn onto the helicopter was no easy task but she was escorted onto the aircraft by a supportive group that included the pilot, GDC staff and Fire and Emergency NZ crew members from Timaru.
"Greg Donaldson (GDC owner) was invaluable, being a big strong guy and just for making the yard available.
"They were all awesome, they just went above and beyond."
It is understood that Donaldson and Read conducted about 20 transfers over the Hakatere from the GDC yard to the Ashburton Airport that day.
Marilyn was based in Christchurch for the remainder of the week.
"She's doing really good.
"I just wanted to make sure that the people involved were thoroughly thanked."