“This is how I die” was all Brent could think
as he tumbled down into the ravine.

A summer holiday trip to Gore Bay was going to be the perfect way to relax for Brent, his friend Matt and their families. The New Year’s Eve weather was beautiful and Brent and Matt decided they’d head out for a quick ride, telling the rest of their group they’d just be away for 40 minutes, back in plenty of time for the evening dinner and celebrations.

After a leisurely walk through bush up the forest trail, the men hopped on their bikes to ride down into one of the bays. Matt headed off first with Brent following close behind. Turning a corner on the track, Brent’s wheel caught the edge of the trail and, with his foot stuck in the clip, the bike suddenly accelerated and he was thrown over the handlebars and down the steep side of the hill. In the next few seconds, the afternoon ride turned into a nightmare.

“I was tumbling really fast, I couldn’t see anything, and I thought, this is how I die! I grabbed at a tree as I fell but I couldn’t hold on to it”.

The tree was, thankfully, enough to slow his descent and Brent found himself lying on a small rocky ledge. Over the edge was a sheer 4-meter drop onto rocks, which he had only narrowly avoided.

Landing around 50 meters up from the beach, Brent knew that he was very badly hurt. He had terrible pain in his neck. Covered in cuts from the rocks and with a significant laceration to his leg he felt very alone.

Further along the track, Matt met a woman walking in the opposite direction and they briefly wished each other a Happy New Year, before carrying on their way. Only moments later, he heard her shouting.

brent matt and scott on the ledge 1132 x 864
Brent in hospital 1132 x 864

Finding Brent’s bike on the track she had called out to see if there was anyone around and then screamed to Matt for help. Brent’s good Samaritan threw them a water bottle (with the name Pip on it) so they had some fluids and offered to go and find help. There was no cell phone reception along the track and, while both Brent and Matt own personal locator beacons, neither was carrying one on this trip.

They are eternally grateful to Pip that she raised the alarm and would love to thank her personally.

For the next hour and 45 minutes Brent and Matt were alone in the silence of the bush, with no idea if help was on its way, or how long it would take. Luckily, Pip had not only called the emergency services but had then waited for the chopper to spot her, so they knew they were in the right location.

“The sound of the chopper was music to my ears” Brent recalled.

Pilot Regan explained that they had the location from the 111 call but then had to fly low over the area to part the trees to find Brent, spotting his feet amongst the bushes.

The crew winched Critical Care Paramedic, Scott, down to the ledge where Brent was lying. There was very little room to move, which made it difficult to examine and treat Brent where he had landed and impossible to get him safely onto a stretcher.

They needed to get him winched out, urgently.

Pilot Regan recalls that “the winch extrication of Brent was particularly difficult as he was located on a small ledge and had thick native bush directly above him. As a rescue team we train regularly for scenarios such as this, which ensured that Critical Care Paramedic Scott was prepared for this hostile environment”.

Without this training it would be impossible to save lives like Brent’s.

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Mask group

Thanks to your donations, we were able to replace the crew’s conventional waist seat harnesses with Helitack HotseatTM jacket harnesses which give greater body stabilisation during winching. This allowed Critical Care Paramedic, Scott, to give more protection to Brent’s spine while he was lifted out, but Brent still remembers how much it hurt putting it on. As Scott explained, “once we’d winched Brent up to the helicopter and attached safety strops, he was flown to a staging area, still partially outside the chopper to limit moving him because of his spinal injuries.” There, he was lowered onto the stretcher for the flight back to Christchurch Public Hospital.

When I spoke to him, 10 weeks after the accident, his scars were still very visible, but he was walking, and recovering amazingly well. He brought in a morning tea spread to thank the crew who saved him that day. It was an emotional reunion, full of relief, happiness and gratitude. The outcome may have been very different without the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and crew.

This type of accident could happen to any of us while
we explore the beautiful New Zealand countryside. We are lucky to
have the Westpac Rescue Helicopter available to reach
us in our time of need. But we need more than luck to keep flying,
we need to raise funds to ensure that our crew are trained to
evacuate patients from every type of location

Share your Air Rescue story.
Submit your tale of courage today.

brent matt and scott on the ledge 1132 x 864

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