STUART Brenchley has seen some gruesome injuries that required the response of a rescue helicopter and, as a result, has spent decades fundraising for services around the country. But until this summer, he had never been on board himself.
“I’ve been farming for 30-odd years so have seen lots of situations where the helicopter teams have had to be called out . . . they do a bloody awesome job,” he says.
“The reality is, those of us living in rural areas would be stuffed without them.”
Originally from te Tairāwhiti, Stuart had only recently returned from Hawke’s Bay to live and work on a farm inland from Gisborne when he got first-hand experience of being picked up by a rescue helicopter.
Just after midday, three days after Christmas, he and his partner were driving on a gravel road near Rere School when he felt the onset of an absent seizure – a sudden loss of consciousness.
“My partner tried to grab the wheel but it all happened too quickly . . . the ute crashed through a fence and barrelled down a bank down to a creek,” he says.
“If the ute had’ve rolled we’d have been in big trouble. Or if it happened a hundred metres up the road we’d have been in big trouble, too.”
As it happened it was bad enough. Though both were wearing seatbelts they were “pretty banged up” and there was no cellphone service in the area.
“My partner got it worse than me . . . she was sort of ragdolled so had lots of little injuries.
“Even so, while I was still out cold she crawled back up to wave some people down and they shot up the road to call emergency services.
“The (Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue) helicopter got there first, followed by ambulance, fire service and police. If someone had brought a box of beer we could have had a party!”
After being treated on-scene, Stuart and his partner were helicoptered to Gisborne Hospital, and both were discharged by that evening.
“What a top team . . . they were bloody awesome,” he says. “As soon as I’m well enough to smack over a deer I’ll be dropping some venison off at the hangar, and a donation for the Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust as well.”
If he does, it won’t be the first time Stuart has been a supporter of rescue helicopter services.
Since the 1990s he’s been a vocal advocate of the need for the service in rural and remote areas, and has for 20 years helped run the Top Of The Ridge Horse Trek, an annual fundraiser for Hawke’s Bay’s Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter.
In the meantime, he was hoping a visit to a neurologist would find the cause of that seizure and get him the treatment needed to make sure it doesn’t happen again, though won’t be driving for at least a year.
“I’d had an episode some time ago but, with two years in the clear, had been approved to get back on the road,” he says.
“As it turned out, I did the most off-roading I’ve done for a long time, and didn’t even get to enjoy it!”
CAPTION: TRICKY TERRITORY: Difficult access meant the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter had to land in a nearby paddock when dispatched to attend the Rere motor vehicle accident that was an unwelcome holiday event for Stuart Brenchley and his partner.