Busy helicopter in sea rescue drama

The rescue of a "very ill" Ukrainian fisherman from a ship off the West Coast was made more challenging by huge ocean swells and strong winds, Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopter duty pilot Flint Horn said today.

The rescue was one of six callouts over the weekend which kept the emergency helicopter running almost non-stop from late on Saturday morning until about 6 o'clock that night.

The helicopter was called at around midday on Saturday by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Wellington to the deep-sea trawler Meridian, 5 nautical miles off the coast of Westport. A 49-year-old Ukrainian fisherman had become seriously ill and required immediate hospital care.

Despite difficult sea conditions, the helicopter crew was able to winch the on-board intensive care paramedic down to the Sealord vessel to assess and treat the patient before he was winched on board and flown to Nelson Hospital.

Horn described the man as gravely ill, but could not comment on the nature of his illness.

He said the wind was blowing between 25 and 30 knots which did not present as much of a problem as the size of the swells.

"That was the tricky bit. The sea was really big with deep swells."

Horn said the helicopter set off at 10.45am on Saturday to airlift a 3-year-old Motueka Valley boy with an upper leg injury to Nelson Hospital.

The rescue off the West Coast followed and then around 2.45pm on Saturday a call was received to help police look for a person believed swept into the water in Blind Channel behind Tahunanui Beach.

Around 3.30pm the helicopter was sent to Tapawera where a 66-year-old woman had been thrown from a horse and seriously injured her leg. The on-board intensive care paramedic treated her before she was flown to Nelson Hospital.

It was then called to help fly a 58-year-old man to Nelson Hospital from Okiwi Bay about 5.30pm on Saturday, after he became unwell and required emergency care.

Yesterday the rescue helicopter flew to Motupipi in Golden Bay where a 53-year-old man had collapsed. He was assessed before being flown to Nelson Hospital for further care.

The Nelson Mail