Ballin’ for a Cause


Olivia Ellis organised a charity ball – Ballin’ for a Cause – held at The Cuban last month. The event raised $7,200 for the Christchurch Westpac Rescue Helicopter, a service close to Olivia and her family’s heart after her brother was flown from Ashburton to Christchurch Hospital in 2014. Olivia visited the rescue helicopter base […]

Ski Season Update

The busy summer period has given way to the cooler months, but there has been no let-up for the crew of Christchurch’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service. The lower temperatures and changeable weather conditions have all played a part in keeping the Rescue Helicopter service busy over the winter months —and with this year’s early snow the service has been busy helping people on the mountains.
Since the season opened in June, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter has been tasked to 37 ski and snowboard related incidents at fields across Canterbury. As anticipated, ski field related accidents are peaking during August – with 10 incidents responded to in the last 2 weeks.
The youngest patient was a 6 year-old male with a fractured tibia/fibula and the oldest was a 68 year-old female with a fractured humerus. Fractures and breaks make up the majority of snow-related injuries, 25 in total, with knee, humerus, clavicle, and wrist injuries being the most common point of impact. Other incidents included 7 patients with concussions, 3 patients with spinal injuries, 1 patient with an open wound and 1 patient suffering multi-system trauma. All patients were transported to Christchurch Hospital for treatment.
“Being extra safety conscious on the mountain never goes amiss,” says Crew Chief Rick Knight. “Knowing your limits, being aware of the conditions and wearing a helmet are just the basic safety precautions when enjoying the slopes this winter.”
The ski season is set to finish within the next couple of months and to date, mission numbers are tracking slightly higher than 2017.
Please take care when travelling to and from the ski fields this winter – so you can enjoy the rest of the season.



Crew Update

HJC in Greymouth_reduced

In July, members of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew participated in a large-scale avalanche response exercise near Mt Cheeseman Ski Area. Crew Chief, Rick Knight, comments “It is a multi-agency exercise directed at following the Canterbury Avalanche Response Plan, which will see Police, St John, ski industry personnel, multiple Land Search and Rescue teams, Alpine […]

Life of a Rescue Pilot

In Stu’s 29 years of experience as a pilot (19 of those working as a rescue pilot) means he has seen significant changes in the Rescue Helicopter Service. “Some of the more significant improvements have been the upgrades of medical gear carried in the helicopter, greater use of GPS (Global Positioning Systems) and GPS transmitting Emergency Locator Beacons; but the greatest improvement by far is the use of Night Vision Goggles, which have transformed our ability to respond to callouts at night.” Since the introduction of NVG’s in 2006, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter now completes over 30% of its missions at night. The Rescue Pilots and crew are on call 24/7, 365 days a year, “It is a big commitment for the pilots and crew, we sacrifice a lot of personal family time to ensure we are available to respond very quickly to callouts.” says Stu.
Stu can recall most of the rescue missions he has attended over the past 19 years; when asked what his most memorable mission has been to date, he finds it difficult to answer as “many jobs have their own unique thing that can make them particularly memorable; it can be good or tragic. Jobs that have different aspects to them (location, winching, weather, the needs of the people being rescued etc) tend to be the most memorable and these tend to be search and rescue  jobs.”
The Rescue Helicopter crew responds to missions ranging from search and rescue, motor vehicle accidents, and medical emergencies, to leisure accidents, sports accidents and special operations; working together closely as a team to ensure a high level of patient care, “At the end of the day there is the satisfaction of knowing you helped make a positive difference to someone who needed help,” says Stu, who feels fortunate he is able to combine his love of flying with the satisfaction of helping people in need. “Never knowing what will happen from day to day and hour to hour, we could be out to sea or in the mountains or attending an incident in the middle of the night. Sometimes in the most challenging conditions and sometimes flying over stunning NZ scenery on a beautiful calm day. It is a very rewarding and enjoyable career.”



Rescue Ready


“An emergency call comes through. The Christchurch Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew are dispatched to a serious accident on a fishing boat off the coast of Westport. Rescue Pilot Kent briefs his colleague Regan; an offshore mission requires 2 Pilots for safety. While the clinical crew, Mike and Kath prepare, Kent studies the weather forecast, working […]