An elderly crew member has been winched from a boat far out at sea in a mission described by rescuers as “extremely challenging”.
The alarm was raised about 7.30pm on Friday with the national Rescue Coordination Centre tasking the Northland Rescue Helicopter due to its long range.
At that time the patient, who had suffered a serious medical event, was on board an 18m vessel about 130 nautical miles (240km) northeast of the Bay of Islands.
That put the rescue near the limit of the helicopter’s range with the Sikorsky S-76 able to travel about 270km from base before it has to turn back.
The chopper departed from Whangārei, refuelled at Bay of Islands Airport near Kerikeri and reached the vessel at 11.15pm.
A paramedic was lowered onto the vessel and both patient and medic were winched onto the aircraft, which began the return flight to Whangārei at 11.40pm.
A spokesman for the four-strong crew said the conditions were “extremely challenging” but their training meant they were well prepared.
A Westpac Rescue Helicopter headed out towards the vessel 30 minutes after the Northland crew to provide emergency backup if needed.
The second helicopter was 20 nautical miles from the vessel when the rescue was completed. The two choppers then flew back together.
The vessel involved was the Patriot X, an 18m pleasure boat registered in Australia.
It was on its way to Northland at the time and is currently at Ōpua.
The rescued crew member has since recovered and is back home in Australia.