Family praise chopper lifeline

19:07, May 29 2013
Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter
FINAL FLIGHT: Family and Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter crew members carry the Tim Shand's coffin. The helicopter flew his body and the back to their farm in the Marlborough Sounds.

For the Shand family of Port Ligar, the Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter is their ambulance and a lifeline.

The family, and others who live in the Marlborough Sounds, rely on the helicopter for help in emergencies.

The Shand family live at Port Ligar - which is a three-hour drive away from Nelson on steep winding gravel road - which means emergency services face a long drive to their farm and a long drive out.

Shand family
VITAL SERVICE: Nathan Shand, left, and Raewyn Shand, supporters of the Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter.

In February Raewyn Shand's husband, Tim, 63, was tragically killed when his vehicle left the Te Towaka Port Ligar road.

His family believe his attention was taken from the road after he waved to a mower driver he passed. His vehicle's back wheel ended up in the soft grass verge which crumbled beneath him, sending his car down the steep bank.

The Shands have 10 children, aged 10 to 33, and are the third and fourth generations of the family to live at Port Ligar. A grandchild due soon will be the fifth generation on the property.


They run a sheep, cattle and mussel farm and an accommodation business at adjacent Waterfall Bay.

Mrs Shand spoke to the Nelson Mail to raise awareness for the Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter, which is holding its annual appeal day on Friday.

She said living in the remote outer Pelorus Sounds meant they had to used the helicopter's services a lot.

She recalled first using the helicopter about 30 years ago when pilot Peter Button flew her, Tim and their third daughter Katrina to Wairau Hospital after they rolled the Land Rover on the farm.

"Peter Button was brilliant."

She also recalls district nurse Peggy Young sternly telling her off after a son collapsed from blood poisoning and they drove him to town for help.

Mrs Young told her the helicopter was "their ambulance", but up until then they had thought it was a luxury.

That was partly due to the "stoic, resiliant" nature of people who farmed in the Sounds, who look after themselves. Now, they would not hesitate to call the helicopter in an emergency.

With no district nurse in the area now, the helicopter was their backstop.

They had called the helicopter last year after a friend who lives on their farm was crushed by a log from his mill. A month before Mr Shand died they also called the chopper for a Nelson woman who was injured after a fall on a boat.

When Mr Shand died the Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter was dispatched to the accident site and a paramedic was winched down to Mr Shand's vehicle. Police were flown to the accident site in the rescue helicopter service's smaller Squirrel to bring back the body.

Mrs Shand said following Mr Shand's large funeral at Annesbrook Church, the family chartered the helicopter to fly back Mr Shand's body in a beautifully crafted coffin made by his daughter Brianna and other children.

"They were the ones that rescued him. They were the ones who found him and they were the ones that brought him home again."

Mrs Shand said her husband was a down-to-earth, humble man who quietly lived his life, but he had touched many people. He had a devilish sense of humour. A tribute from a young Canadian man who had Woofed on their property nicely summed him up.

The young man said: "Tim Shand had a profound impact on my life simply through the way he lived his. He loved his family and his property. There was nowhere else he wanted to be. And no-one else he wanted to be with and for a young man who is still at odds with this world it was inspiring to see a man at peace with it."

The Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter is holding its annual appeal day on Friday. It needs to raise $500,000 from the community. The service says if every fourth person in the Nelson region donated $20, the service could cover its funding shortfall. Sally Kidson talks to two people who used the service last year.