‘You have to back yourself every day’

Leah, pictured by Max
Having worked in emergency medicine on the East Coast, Leah Koretz is building new skills as the Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter service’s newest – and youngest – crewman.

She might have been new to the team but by the time she came on board, Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter crewman Leah Koretz was already familiar with the work.

At the age of 23, Leah had spent two years working with Hato Hone St Johns’ crew in Ruatoria.

“It’s pretty busy up the coast and we often worked closely with the helicopter team,” she says. “If a patient needed special care or transport, they were always there for us.”

Leah is originally from Hamilton and in 2021 she and her partner relocated to Ruatoria, where they both had jobs.

“I trained as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) which is a pretty challenging job up the Coast as they don’t have paramedics there,” she says.

“But it does give you a lot of different experiences and the chance to develop a broad range of skills.”

While she had great remote clinical support, dealing with situations where hospital care was a long way away meant she did need to think outside the box, says Leah.

“So it was great for my confidence . . . you have to back yourself every day.”

Though passionate about her work with the Ruatoria crew, Leah had always dreamed of working with helicopters and jumped at the chance to apply for the role of crewman.

“It is work where you get to go places many people don’t and to meet people that, otherwise, you might never come across,” she says.

“The opportunity to expand on my background as a medical professional with new skills in aviation is really exciting.”

Leah started work in September 2023, travelling to the base at Taupo to work with specialised crew trainers.

By December they had returned with her to Gisborne to further develop her skills from the Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust hangar, while she settled into the team ready for her first rostered shift later in the month.

Having nailed the theory part of her education, working on winch skills and becoming competent with Night Vision Goggles was a big push for her trainers.

“And I’m absolutely loving it,” says Leah. “I can’t wait to get onto the roster and be a part of the team as they track around the region.”

CAPTION: SKY HIGH: After training at out-of-region bases, Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue Helicopter crewman Leah Koretz joined the team in Gisborne where she doubled down on working on winch skills (pictured) and becoming competent with Night Vision Goggles.