A Masterton teenager who plummeted down a steep slope from the top of the Manawatu Gorge on Saturday was plucked to safety by rescue helicopter after narrowly avoiding a 300m fall to the road below.
Chris Moody, Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter base manager and pilot, said the girl had plunged 30 metres while traversing a scenic walk at the top of the gorge about mid-afternoon on Saturday.
She had managed to stop her fall just short of a "very steep" drop of hundreds of metres to the road below, he said, and was found on all fours and clinging to rocks when the air rescue team arrived at the scene.
"She was very lucky she hadn't started rolling or she would never have stopped. We worked out if she had gone any further she would have fallen 200 to 300 metres down a very steep slope and onto the road," Mr Moody said.
A crowd of people had watched the rescue operation, he said, which had changed tack after an initial plan had been judged too risky.
"We initially thought we could hover near to her and complete the rescue but it was too steep and the risk was too great of dislodging her with the down draught from the rotors. She managed to cling on to the slope until a paramedic got to her and we hoisted them both up together."
The girl was in shock and had bruises and scrapes to her legs , Mr Moody said, and she was airlifted to Palmerston North Hospital for assessment and further treatment.
The successful rescue capped a busy week for the Philips Search and Rescue Trust that included the airlifting early in the week of a seriously injured woman in her 50s who lost control of her three-wheeler motorcycle and left the road near Mangaweka.
The rescue crew also attended two serious road crashes mid-week and earlier on Saturday had completed an operation using the helicopter hoist and recovery basket to pluck two people to safety after they became stranded in the middle of the Manawatu River.