Months of wet weather is continuing to impact the East Coast where the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter had to set down in a rocky riverbed.
Just before 10am on the first day of winter, the team was called to a property just south-west of Tikitiki where an elderly woman was suffering a medical event.
With the presence of powerlines making a road landing unsafe, the crew looked at setting down in a nearby paddock.
“But while the paddocks look nice and green, when you get close you can see the surface water that indicates it is going to be pretty boggy underneath,” says relief crewman Iain Gulliford.
“So pilot James Easterbrook opted to divert to a nearby riverbed where there was still plenty of silt, but enough of a rock base to give us a solid landing.”
The crew still had a lot of mud to clean up once they got back to the Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust hangar, in Gisborne, but the landing was successfully completed and the patient brought on site by Tikitiki St John Ambulance.
She was assessed, treated and flown in a stable condition to Gisborne Hospital.
It was a different story when, earlier that same day, the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter had a 1.30am call to attend another medical event, this time on the outskirts of Ruatoria township.
“At that location there was a bit more elevation, rather than being on the flats near the river, so we were able to land in a paddock right by the patient’s home,” Mr Gulliford said.
On this occasion, too, the team’s on-board Critical Care Flight Paramedic assessed and treated the patient before they were flown in a stable condition to Gisborne Hospital.
“What made this job easier was fantastic guidance from the Ruatoria Fire and Emergency team, who got on site just minutes before us to set up and light a suitable landing zone.
“They’re always there to assist, no matter what time it is, so we’re really grateful for that.”
CAPTION: A nimble Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter found landing sites in both a paddock, in Ruatoria, and a riverbed, in Tikitiki, when called to the East Coast on the first day of winter. Pictures by James Easterbrook