Ashburton’s Rescue Warriors return triumphant with life-saving donation for rescue helicopter

The Rescue Warriors, Bruce Kell, David Keeley, Willy Leferink, and Warren Harris – four farmers from Ashburton – have raised over $100,000 for the Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust, by pedalling the length of New Zealand from Northland to Bluff.

Today (Thursday 12 May) they revealed their fundraising total – an astonishing $103,318.95 – at an event at Ashburton Aviation Museum attended by Mayor Neil Brown, Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust, supporters and sponsors, rescue helicopter Ambassadors, a crew member of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and local supporters.

Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust Chief Executive, Christine Prince says the crew have been overwhelmed by the efforts the Rescue Warriors have made for their service.

“May is Chopper Appeal month and, as we rely on donations from the public to keep our Westpac Rescue Helicopters in the sky, we’re hugely grateful for everyone who’s able to donate.

“The Rescue Warriors have made an enormous contribution to our efforts, and with each mission costing $5000 their support means over 20 lives will be saved in our Canterbury communities,” she says.

The men, with an average age of 62, set off on traditional pedal bikes on Bruce’s 60th birthday (25 February) from Cape Reinga and made it to Bluff in 24 days, although Warren had to retire early due to a knee injury.

“The Westpac Rescue Helicopter service has been required by some immediate family of the Rescue Warriors and fundraising is how we show our gratitude,” says Bruce Kell.

“This service could be required by any one of us, especially people who work and live remotely, and without support this service may not survive.” Mr Kell says.

Christine Prince says the number of missions for the rescue helicopters is increasing year on year, and since Covid even more inter-hospital transfers are needed.

The total number of missions in Mid Canterbury and South Canterbury for the first four months of 2022 was 83. Last year’s total number of missions for the region was 340.

The Christchurch Westpac Rescue Helicopter and the ROA Rescue Helicopter based in Greymouth are ready 24/7, 365 days of the year. Two helicopters are based in Christchurch, one is 24/7 and the second is on standby 10 hours per day, seven days per week. These two bases cover the region from Kaikōura down to Waitaki, and from Karamea to Haast on the West Coast.

Each rescue helicopter crew consists of a pilot, a crewman, and an intensive care paramedic, who are ready to deliver life-saving aid using the best training and technology.