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Rescue 1


Stories from Rescue 1

Bruce Kerr and Paul (Ernie) Bryant

Paul (Ernie) Bryant and Bruce Kerr, who feature on TV2's Rescue 1, have both just achieved the milestone of 2,000 air rescues each. We asked them for their most memorable rescues.

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Paul (Ernie) Bryant - been with the service for 13 years, and with the air force before that.
1. I always remember my first job on my first day and about 10 minutes into it. It was a fatal head-on with one seriously injured. I remember watching all the ambulance and fire crews working and the helicopter parked on the road and the whole scene environment. Never thought then I would do that 2,000 times.
2. Getting airborne at day break to look for a missing runabout and finding it 3/4 submerged with a father and young boy clinging to it. We winched them both to safety and I always think of the look on their faces as we hovered above them, the look of relief.
3. Winching an entire family out of the middle of the Coromandel ranges. They were lost and it took serious work for us as crew to find them. They were uninjured but if they hadn't been found, the result could have been well different.
4. Uplifting a young boy who had been travelling with a family relative and they struck the back of a truck - well actually the boy's head struck it and he was very seriously injured and in a coma for a long time. He came to visit us some years later and it was good to see him making such good progress.
5. And lastly the guy who was smoking fish and went to top the burners up and seriously burnt his upper body. Serious burns from something which was a normal sort of thing that a lot of people do.  Every time I smoke fish I remember him.

Bruce Kerr

1.  Several years ago I was involved in a rescue of a 68-year-old solo yachtswoman 150 miles off Cape Reinga. Her 24ft yacht had been rolled and damaged and she had hurt her back badly.  We arrived at her yacht in howling 50-60 knot winds and mountainous seas.

While being winched to the yacht, the winch cable scraped across a spreader plate on the mast and was cut.  I dropped about two metres to the deck, bruising my back and ribs. I attended the patient but we could not return to the Helicopter because of the damaged cable.

We both stayed on the yacht in atrocious conditions until the Helicopter returned 24 hrs later with a new winch cable.  Then we were able to get the patient off to the hospital for attention.  She made a good recovery, had her yacht repaired and later sailed away again. 

2:   We rescued three young men from the Te Kohanga swamp one winter's evening. They had gone in looking for a pig, became disorientated and thoroughly lost.  Fortunately we had just begun to use Night Vision Goggles and after a time of searching for them were able to catch a glimpse of a cell phone screen through the trees.

Then we were able to winch them from their cold and isolated spot, and fly them out to safety. Along with the boys we also winched up their dog named Peanut, who behaved himself admirably.  Although not injured they were cold and very relieved to be rescued.

3. A call from the Waitakere ranges had us looking for a tramping party with a lady with a fractured leg after a fall.

We found the spot ok and prepared to winch up the patient with the injury.  Her leg had already been splinted by a St John Paramedic and she was ready to go.

On the way back up to the Helicopter on the winch she let out a yell which alarmed me.  Back inside the Helicopter I asked if anything was wrong.

No, she replied,  it was a yell of complete exuberation. She was happy to be rescued from her plight, excited by having a ride on the winch and delighted by the vista surrounding us. It was a lovely sunny day, and as we came up through the magnificent forest trees  we could see the sun sparkling on the Tasman sea.

Altogether the perfect job for a Rescue Helicopter crew!

4. Another yacht rescue woke the crew early one morning about 5am.  The Rescue Coordination centre in Wellington had received a distress signal from a locator beacon.

The indication from the 406 beacon which gives accurate GPS positions indicated Great Barrier Island in the vicinity of Whangapoua Beach.

We reached the area in about 30 mins and as the Helicopter rounded the rocks at the north end of the beach the yacht came into view.  It was a sad sight on its side and obviously badly damaged by the rocks.  Nearby was the sailor who had hauled himself up onto a large rock but could get no further because of the raging waves.

We winched him off the rock and landed on the Island to warm him up and make him more comfortable.

Charlie, an American,  had spent the past couple of years building  his 22 ft yacht in Tauranga and after several local voyages was setting out for the Pacific Islands. North of Great Barrier Island he had smelled fuel, and unable to locate a problem had deemed it wiser to return to repair the problem.

Unfortunately, while trying to get some rest at night the yacht had strayed too close to Great Barrier Island and became a casualty on the savage rocks.

Charlie was very happy to be alive though, and to be rescued so promptly. It was remarkable that only a couple of hours had elapsed from when the yacht struck the rocks until when Charlie was back in Auckland with a hot cup of tea.

5. On Christmas Day last year a lady and her husband were entertaining their family at their holiday home in the North Kaipara area.  While clearing plates off the BBQ table, she fell off the deck to a lower level, falling heavily against the step on the deck.  She knew she had injured her shoulder and ribs on one side and was in considerable pain.

An Ambulance was called and a local Doctor also examined her.  They were concerned that she was very pallid and had a falling Blood Pressure.

They recognised a potentially serious situation and called for the Helicopter to take her to Auckland Hospital. This was a crucial decision as the injuries discovered in the Hospital later showed. Besides the shoulder injury were several rib fractures, one of which had punctured her spleen

A critically large amount of blood had leaked out of her spleen into her abdominal cavity.  Medical specialists told her family later that if she had been another 10 or 15 minutes reaching a hospital with surgical facilities she could have died.

It was hugely satisfying and rewarding to have been part of the Helicopter crew instrumental in saving her life.

It was also great to meet this lady later at the Helicopter Base and see how full of life and cheerful she was.  She was truly rejoicing at having the opportunity to continue enjoying her life and her family.  We were able to rejoice with her!