On Sunday 3 March, at around 3pm, the NZCC Rescue helicopter staff received notification from the NZ Rescue Co-ordination centre that a beacon had been activated in the Craigieburn Range area. Little was known of the incident at that stage other than the owner was a keen paragliding enthusiast and had been planning such an activity that afternoon.
The crew at the time were Angus Taylor (Pilot), David Provis (Paramedic) and Tim Robins (Crewman/Winch operator).
The crew configured the helicopter for a search and rescue operation and were soon on scene. Very quickly after their arrival a paraglider was located in distress; he and his flying partner (the beacon owner) were situated on a very rocky ridge line high up in the Craigieburn alpine range. As it transpired, the injured male had been flying around the ridgeline that afternoon catching thermals. He happened too close to a rocky outcrop, smashing into it with such a force that he broke his femur and suffered serious concussion.
While Angus ferried equipment to a staging area further downhill, Tim assisted David in preparing the patient for being winched as it was too far, and the terrain to rough, to carry him safely uphill to a suitable landing area.
Shortly after, the BK117 was in place hovering over both medic and patient. A straightforward stretcher winch was then conducted, with both men quickly and safely brought aboard without incident.
The lucky paraglider pilot was then flown to Christchurch Hospital for emergency treatment.
“The stability of the Coast’s new BK helicopter is fantastic in a winch like this, high up in an alpine environment where there is little margin for error. Also, with the added lifting capacity we could lift both the medic and patient aboard at the same time, saving valuable time in getting the paraglider to hospital as soon as possible”, said Crewman, Tim Robins, of the incident. “This job also highlights the life saving capacity of carrying a PLB when going into isolated environments such as this. Doing so can be literally lifesaving”.