Code 1 paramedic Bruce Kerr on working with 'distressing' preventable accidents

Intensive-care paramedic Bruce Kerr with Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust's Westpac rescue helicopter.

Intensive-care paramedic Bruce Kerr with Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust's Westpac rescue helicopter.

Most people's work stories don't translate into good television but paramedic Bruce Kerr is an exception.

His day-to-day exploits – along with those of his fellow crew members on the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust's Westpac rescue helicopter – have featured on the popular reality series Code 1 for four years.

The intensive-care paramedic says while there were concerns about squeezing a TV cameraman into the already crowded helicopter cockpit, the crew's qualms were soon cast aside.

"We all realised very quickly that people enjoy seeing what the helicopter has been doing," Kerr says, adding the television series has been invaluable in raising awareness of a service that relies, to some extent, on public donations to do its work.

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The series' forthcoming fifth season is, however, Kerr's last.

"I miss being up there but it's a very physical job. It's also very demanding mentally because as an intensive-care paramedic there's a lot to learn and a lot to remember," he says.

During his 20-plus years on the job, Kerr, who is in his late 60s, has taken part in more than 2000 rescues, many of them involving being winched into otherwise inaccessible accident scenes.

"It could be a really dangerous place, like on to a little boat tossing around in the sea or to reach a forestry worker down the side of a mountain," he says.

He, himself, ended up hurt after one such rescue when a winch rope snapped while he was trying to reach a solo female sailor injured when her eight-metre craft capsized about 250km offshore during a storm.

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"I fell from probably three or four metres up and ended up with very sore ribs but, thankfully, it was not enough to keep me out of action," he says.

The Westpac choppers fly more than 7000 missions annually, providing medical assistance – and often life-saving help – to people in remote areas.

Victims range from people suffering medical emergencies to those injured in accidents – some of them bizarre, like the toddler impaled by a branch through the neck while running through bush.

Kerr says while most accidents are just that – pure accidents – there is one type of call-out he really dislikes.

"I've always hated going to motor accidents," he says, "because often you find it's the result of a car having pulled out and overtaken several others and then, unable to get back into their line in time, crashed into another car.

"I always find it very distressing to have been at places like that where the accident was preventable."

Viewers keen to support the Westpac rescue helicopter can donate $3 by texting CHOPPER to 8663

Code 1, TVNZ 1, returns Monday June 19.

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 - TV Guide

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