Recreational mishaps a big part of helicopter rescues

Last updated 05:00 07/04/2014

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Recreational activities gone wrong made up a third of Taranaki's rescue helicopter missions for 2013.

Skiing, snowboarding, tramping, kayaking and hunting mishaps made up 36 of the 109 emergency accident missions the helicopter attended during the year with motor vehicle accidents making up another 45 per cent.

In 2013 the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust's twin-engined 2001 Agusta 109 Power flew a total of 178 missions, ranging from transporting patients involved in accidents, people with medical issues, hospital transfers and helping in search and rescue operations.

The number of missions was up by 10 per cent on the 161 in 2012.

Pilot Mike Parker said he thrived on the technical challenges and geography the region has and how it impacted on his decisions.

The constantly changing conditions around the mountain were highlighted when the helicopter was called to help an injured patient who had slid 600 metres.

"Unfortunately the cloud was pretty solid and we couldn't go," Parker said.

However, a second call saying the patient's condition had deteriorated prompted Parker "to try and find a way up".

Flying around to Stratford, where the broken up cloud cover gave Parker a 20-minute window to "to get back down through the gap".

"It's a terrible environment up there and it can turn really quickly. The mission was very tough and technical."

Parker, battling reduced visibility and fading light, was able to get down and rescue the patient with minutes to spare.

Chief crewman Jayden Strickland juggles two roles with the service, being an extra set of eyes for the pilot and assisting paramedics.

"My priority is the aircraft initially and then I turn into an emergency medical technician assisting the paramedic."

Strickland said a collision between a car and motorcycle in Uruti emphasised the time-saving advantages of the chopper in emergency situations.

"When we arrived on the scene fire and police were already there and the situation was not great.

"The medic had to work really hard to stabilise the patient. The patient's body was shutting down peripherally with blood centring on the core to keep vital organs going."

"Uruti is close to town but the time saved using the helicopter and getting expert medical attention so fast was, I believe, life-saving, as it is with many of our missions."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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