40 years, two lifesaving rescues
Forty years ago, seriously injured Andrew Sutherland was flown from remote Wairarapa bush by Peter Button after his bulldozer somersaulted over a steep drop. This year he needed the rescue helicopter’s services again.
“I had my own business clearing scrub,” says Andrew. “We worked in twos, with two bulldozers, so if you got into difficulties, someone could pull you clear.
“The scrub fell away and my bulldozer and I went over the bank.”
As the bulldozer somersaulted, the safety canopy, diesel tank and seat were detached.
“First roll it landed upside down, the next it landed back on its tracks with everything stripped off it and I was lying down the bank, strapped into the seat with fragments of bulldozer all around me,” he says.
Andrew had broken his pelvis and right hip and dislocated his leg. His colleague drove to raise the alarm.
“The paramedics arrived but it was steep country at Pirinoa, near Lake Ferry, and they couldn’t get me to the ambulance,” he recalls. “Back then you needed a doctor to approve calling the helicopter so we had to wait for the doctor to come out.
“Peter Button landed in a clearing. The paramedics got me on a stretcher and over a fence and to the helicopter. They gave me plasma and stabilised me and Peter flew me to Wellington.”
In the spirit of caring that has come to epitomise the rescue service, Peter then visited Andrew in Wellington Hospital and in Masterton after he was transferred to be nearer to family.
“Peter made it a very kind, humane experience. I was interested in learning to fly and he encouraged me and I later did my commercial pilot’s licence.”
Last year, Andrew was at an anniversary celebration at Ngawi when he slipped on a wet deck, fell backwards down steps and was knocked unconscious and concussed. As he is on blood-thinning medication, paramedics called the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to transport him to Wellington Hospital.
“I never thought I’d need it again, He says. “I got married in the year after the accident at Pirinoa. We donate to Life Flight regularly – my wife Elaine organises that.
“I’d had a previous accident, before the time Peter rescued me and nearly died from blood loss. With New Zealand terrain, it’s imperative you have help quickly. Life Flight is amazing, it’s saved so many lives.”