A domino effect of call-outs saw the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter off-base for nearly 20 hours, with a sister service swooping in to provide cover for the region.
The series of events started when, just after 2pm on Friday, the team flew to Waihau Bay where an older person had suffered an arm injury in a fall, and it was decided to take them to Tauranga Hospital for further treatment.
While heading back to Gisborne at about 5.15pm, the Eastland helicopter was diverted to Te Teko after a young girl suffered traumatic injuries during a rugby game.
“Our patient was in status-one condition and though she had been stabilised before take-off, she deteriorated during the flight so we called in at Thames Hospital,” says pilot Mike Fitzgerald.
“There, as well as continuing critical treatment, paramedic Lachlan Clark communicated to help develop a patient plan. That resulted in a hand-over to the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter so she could be taken to the emergency department at Starship Children’s Hospital.”
The fog that had been a complicating factor in working out the young girl’s patient plan further disrupted the team of three, who had attempted to return to Gisborne after refuelling in Thames.
Increasingly bad weather meant they only got as far as Opotiki before the call was made to return to Tauranga to “wait it out”.
Meanwhile, back in Gisborne, Taupo’s Greenlea Rescue Helicopter team had covered a Ruatoria job while the Tairāwhiti team was off-base and they, too, were grounded due to the weather.
“Generally it’s not great for either of us to be off-base for that long as we need to be ready to respond to call-outs,” says Mr Fitzgerald who, with Mr Clark and crewman Jean-Pierre Jordaan, was back at the Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust hangar by just after 10am on Saturday.
“But in this case the Taupo team were able to cover the East Coast while we were away so it turned out to be the ideal situation.”
Caption: The Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter prepares to take-off from the Thames Hospital site. Picture by Lachlan Clark