Weather confines rescuers and patient to hut

OLIVIA WANNAN
Last updated 05:00 14/07/2014

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Poor weather forced a Wellington man with spinal injuries to spend a cold Saturday night with rescuers in a Tararua hut.

The 34-year-old was part of a group riding quad bikes through the Kapiti back-country when he crashed about 7pm on Saturday, suffering injuries to his back and chest, said Wellington Free Ambulance intensive care paramedic Hannah Latta, who worked overnight caring for the man.

Luckily the accident happened near shelter - the Waiotauru Hut, where the group had planned to stay the night, she said. "They managed to lift him on to a quad bike and ferry him very gently to the hut."

Without cellphone reception, several group members rode out to get help, and a Westpac rescue helicopter was called to airlift him out. But the weather thwarted any hopes of winching the injured man out or dropping off the doctor and Wellington Free Ambulance paramedics, including Latta. "The cloud was just too low."

Members of the Upper Hutt Community Rescue squad were then called to drive the medical team, to the hut, about 12km inland from Waikanae.

Four-wheel-drive vehicles took the medical team as close to the hut as they could, but it still took a four-hour journey to reach the man, rescue member Murray Grocott said. "It was drizzly and turned pretty cold. It was about 2 o'clock by the time we decided we would stay in there."

A hunting party was also spending the night there, so 12 people, plus the medical team as well as three dogs, settled in for the night in the tin hut.

Latta and the medical team worked through the night to provide pain relief for the man.

"At about 2 o'clock it started to snow - which was just lovely," she said.

Clearing conditions yesterday morning meant the rescue helicopter crew was able to winch the man, and his medical team, on board after 7am. "He was in pretty good spirits - happy to be out."

He was taken to Wellington Hospital's emergency rooms in a stable condition, spokeswoman Kim Whitaker said. He was discharged yesterday afternoon.

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- The Dominion Post

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