Matt Aldridge was travelling at about 60kmh when
he crashed into a rocky outcrop in Christchurch’s
Port Hills. Matt was speed-flying – an advanced type
of paragliding that uses a smaller, more manoeuvrable
wing – when the accident happened in July 2018.

He sustained severe injuries to his legs and back but says he probably would have been paralysed had it not been for the rapid response of Canterbury’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter crew. Aldridge was in his fifth year of studying medicine and hoped to be a surgeon when the accident happened. He was a keen mountaineer and took up speed-flying about two years earlier, having obtained two paragliding licences. He was low-flying near to Christchurch Gondola, “pushing it quite a lot”, and scraping through the tussock.

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“I was doing some laps there, it might have been my fourth or fifth that day. I came round a corner and there was a small rock outcrop and I went straight into it. I catapulted down the hill a bit. I came to a stop and tried to move my legs but there was nothing.”

Rescue Helicopter paramedics were able to reach him and he was rushed to hospital.He was in a wheelchair for six months and has undergone several operations.

“Originally I was told I would never move my legs again. After about a year I was off crutches. If it wasn’t for the rescue helicopter, if it had taken any longer, my back probably wouldn’t have recovered and I wouldn’t be moving my legs.”

The Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust – which has flown 14,000 rescue missions since it was founded in 1989 – needs to raise $6m per annum to provide the life-saving service, but is 50 per cent down on funding since the Covid-19 outbreak. The Trust relies on community support to keep this life-saving service operational 24/7/365.