Life Flight

Each week 28 people need time-critical aeromedical care. With your support, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Air Ambulance Planes are there in their moment of need.

Meet Joe from the Wairarapa


Joe and his friend Dave were in the Aorangi Forest Park. After a long day out in the bush, Joe was heading down a steep hill when the ground gave way and sent him sliding down a cliff face.

He fell six metres, badly injuring his leg in the process.

“On the way down, my boot got caught in some bedrock sticking out from the side. It cranked my foot at right angles, ripped all the ligaments off my ankle and broke one of the bones below the knee.”

In addition to a broken leg, it was also getting dark and cold. Joe would not be able to walk out on his own in his condition, and hypothermia was a genuine threat.

Fortunately, Joe was carrying a personal locator beacon with him and soon sent off the emergency signal.

The Life Flight team soon received the call. Within minutes our team had made a flight plan, loaded rescue and medical equipment, launched our Westpac Chopper, and flew to Haurangi Forest Park.

Once at the scene, the team immediately knew it wouldn’t be an easy rescue. It was pitch black and very windy, and Joe was stuck in a steep valley. As Crewman Mike recalls:

“Darkness was one of the big challenges. We operate in the dark, but there are varying degrees; it ended up being a particularly dark night.”

Mike continues, “The Rescue Coordination Centre had given us rough coordinates. That brought us close enough for Joe and Dave to make visual contact with us via torchlight. We couldn’t see them because it was just a big black valley below, but we saw two lights that were obviously waving at us as we flew over.”

Pilot Harry had to keep the helicopter hovering steadily in the strong wind while Mike operated the winch, sending Paramedic Hernan down to recover Joe.

It was challenging, but the crew safely and swiftly rescued Joe because of the team’s excellent training – made possible thanks to your fantastic support.

“The retrieval was challenging because it was right down the very bottom of a small stream. The river was the only place the paramedic could get Joe to that had a clear sky above him so that I could lift him out. They were standing in water up to their waists about 160 feet below the helicopter. That’s the longest operational winch I’ve ever done. And even with night vision goggles, at 160 feet down, it starts to get really difficult to see what’s going on.”

Joe is very grateful to Mike and the team for rescuing him in such challenging circumstances.

“My wife Suzanne and I offer you our most heartfelt thanks.”

This kind of outcome wouldn’t be possible without your support, as Mike agrees:

“We want to get everyone home safely, not just the patient but us as well, so we’re lucky we’ve got all the support we do from the community. It allows us to invest in training our crew and be out there flying every day and night when people need us.”

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