Helicopter rescues climb to record heights last year

Choppers' search and rescue and hospital missions

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2014
Dan Harcourt
Mark Taylor / Fairfax NZ

PILOT AND PATIENT: When Matamata woman Lee Love was injured in a minibus crash last year, Westpac Rescue Helicopter pilot Dan Harcourt went out on a rainy night to fly her to hospital.

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Rescue helicopters flew more missions than ever in 2013 to patients the width and breadth of the Waikato.

More than 700 missions ranged from search and rescue to hospital transfers for patients in critical condition.

Two different rescue trusts cover the Waikato - the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust works in the Coromandel, and the Philips Search and Rescue Trust has a base at Waikato Hospital and another in Taupo.

The Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter had a record year in 2013, when it carried out 238 missions to the Coromandel, and a total of 923 missions throughout the Auckland region, up 137 on the previous high of 786 missions in 2012.

The Coromandel-based chopper had a busy start to summer when it was called into action 25 times in its first 12 days at the base for the 2013-2014 holiday period. This was up five on the previous year.

Colville, Pauanui, and Whangamata were among the Coromandel mission destinations in December 2013, and they included a van versus dirt bike accident, transport for patients with medical conditions, and winching an injured patient out of a gorge.

Last year was also a busy one for the Philips trust, with 505 missions from the Waikato, King Country and Central Plateau area.

Christmas and early January also brought a rise in mission numbers, following two steady years for that period. Throughout all five of its central North Island bases, the trust flew 945 missions and the numbers have been inching up each year for the past three years.

Last year, 44 missions were to help newborns and/or their mothers, and 64 for police or search and rescue.

Accident and medical reasons were the most common, with 563 missions.

Recreational-based accidents made up 35 per cent of those, and almost 30 per cent of accidents involved either a motor vehicle or motorbike.

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- Waikato Times

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