Bryce, a Chemistry Professor, was leading a group of ten experienced trampers from the Christchurch Tramping Club at the Rakaia Spurs when he turned around to take a photo of the group by the ridge. Suddenly he felt himself slipping, “half way down I was resigned… this is where it ends,” Bryce recalls of his experience. He desperately tried to grasp at things to stop himself, he plunged 40 metres down the ridge.
His tramping companions couldn’t believe it – they looked down the sheer cliff face in horror. “We thought no one could survive such a fall. When we saw he was conscious we knew we had to act quickly.” The girls in the group surrounded Bryce, keeping him warm and holding his neck in place, while two of the climbers made their way back to find help. Luckily, Bryce’s wife Wendy had given Bryce a locator beacon for his birthday several years earlier – “I’d asked for an MP3 player,” Bryce laughed.
The locator beacon triggered the alarm for Air Rescue.
Brent, our intensive care paramedic arrived on the job to find Bryce wedged in by women. He joked about whether or not he needed assistance! Bryce was “extremely pleased to see the crew”.
Indeed, he was lucky as Pilot Stu recalls: “The weather conditions were dreadful; the situation tested us to the limit but it’s on days like that all the training and 17 years’ experience pays off. It was an extremely windy day, but the place Bryce had fallen to was in a pocket of shelter from the wind which meant that we were able to winch down the crew to help him. It was extremely steep – he is very lucky to be alive today.”
Bryce was delivered safely to Christchurch Hospital, where he made a full recovery.
While Bryce told me his story he showed me the photos on his phone to help share his experience – I recognised the crew and felt extremely proud of them. Bryce then shared with me that since the incident a few years ago he and his wife Wendy have been making a donation each year to support future air rescue missions. “We donate because we are so thankful that Air Rescue were able to be there to bring me to safety that day.”