Helicopter crewman departs

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014
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ROBERT CHARLES
FLYING AWAY: After serving 14 years as a crewman with the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Phil Dwyer has mixed emotions about leaving the service.

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A long serving crewman with the Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter is hanging up his flying gear.

Phil Dwyer has been with the service since 2000 and will finish his tour of duty this week to pursue a business opportunity in Rarotonga with his partner, Desa, and their 2-year-old daughter Meila.

Mr Dwyer had been involved with surf lifesaving from a young age and that experience gave him a foot in the door with the rescue service.

"I started as a volunteer with the marine team, as a rescue swimmer, and have progressed from there to become a fully trained crewman," the 33-year-old said.

"I enjoy doing positive things in the community and it's definitely rewarding."

Mr Dwyer said he had been with the service during its highs and lows.

"It was hard to be there during the low points. It's such a vital asset in the community and to potentially lose it was a bit worrying.

"We've got the right machine to do all of the jobs now."

He said while he'd been involved in many rescue operations, two would always stick in his mind - winching 10 people to safety from Paritutu Rock in August 2012 and locating and pulling the crew of a sunken fishing trawler to safety in December 2011.

"I've had some pretty big jobs but that [Paritutu] is one I won't forget. It was a pretty intense three days, from winching the kids off the rock to trying to locate the missing three.

"The stress was there because you knew that there were people missing in the water and you were trying to look for them while you were trying to winch the others to safety."

The service's marine rescue crew received the New Zealand Search and Rescue Council's gold award for their efforts but Mr Dwyer said it wasn't about the awards. "At the end of the day being able to make a difference in someone's life - there is a lot of satisfaction in that."

Mr Dwyer said he had mixed emotions about leaving.

"It's hard to leave when everything is going really well and it's enjoyable."

Trust chairman Bryce Barnett said Mr Dwyer would be missed.

"I would have to say that Phil is probably one of the most passionate guys I have ever met. To me he created part of the heart of this organisation."

An announcement about who would replace Mr Dwyer would be made in the near future, he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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