Emergency Response: book extract (plus win a copy)

Ryan Boyd
Emergency Response: book extract (plus win a copy)

With 25 years as a rescue helicopter crewman in Wellington and nearly 4,000 missions under his belt, it would be fair to say Dave Greenberg has some stories to tell.

Following his retirement from the emergency services in 2016, Dave has now shared some of these amazing experiences in the fantastic book, ‘Emergency Response: Life, Death, and Helicopters’.

He was kind enough to provide not only an extract from the book, but also five signed copies to give away to lucky REDnews readers.

Entry details are below, but first, enjoy this enticing preview…


No room to rescue them all

EARLY IN THE evening of 16 October 1993, just months after we moved to our new BK117 helicopter, an emergency locator beacon activation was detected around 260 kilometres southeast of Wellington. Sunset was at 7.45pm, only a couple of hours away, so the rescue coordination centre requested that we send both a plane and the Westpac Rescue helicopter to the area.

Toby was the helicopter pilot and John and I were on board. We loaded several drums of fuel and set off for the hour and a half flight to the area. As it was my first major offshore trip, I was feeling a little nervous. We had all our emergency gear on board but if anything went wrong we were on our own; no other helicopter in the region could fly as far out to sea as we could.


Tom Sunnex was flying the plane and Phil Harris was with him to operate the directional finding unit. Since the plane is nearly twice as fast as the helicopter it arrived in the search area long before we did.

About an hour into the flight, Tom informed us that they had spotted a life raft floating in the sea. I had only winched off a life raft once before in training so John reminded me about the techniques I should use. He said that he was sure he wouldn’t need to, but if I had any problems he could move to the back and take over the winching.

En route we pumped one of the drums of fuel into the main tank to make sure we had enough fuel to carry out the rescue. I could pump the other two drums on the way home.

I was wearing a winch harness so, if required, John could winch me down to the raft. When we arrived overhead the life raft it was just starting to get dark and the raft was jumping around in large seas. This was going to be my most difficult winch yet and I focused on getting it right.

I was as stressed as I had ever been on the helicopter but easily managed to get the two rescue harnesses to the raft. The people put them on and within a few minutes of us arriving we had them on the way up to the helicopter. I was glad we had finished the rescue before it got completely dark.

As I watched them come up towards us, two more heads popped out of the opening in the life raft. I called out on the intercom that there were ‘two more’ and Toby replied: ‘Two more what??’

We had plenty of fuel but now we were looking at winching two people off a life raft in the dark.


When the first two were safely in the helicopter they told me that there were still four people on the raft. This was a major problem. With three fuel drums in the cabin, we didn’t have space for me and six others.

I was told to dump the empty fuel drum into the sea. While I was doing this, the guys up front worked out how much fuel we had in the tanks and how much we needed, and then told me to throw one of the full drums into the sea also.

Ha, easy for them to say! A full 210-litre drum of fuel weighs about 170 kilograms and is a challenge to manhandle at the best of times, let alone in a cramped helicopter cabin. With the help of one of the rescued fishermen I got the drum to the door and then pushed it out. It struck the skid on the way down, sending a shudder through the helicopter.

Now that we had room, we still had to rescue the other four people. I put a glow stick on the winch hook which helped me keep track of it as it headed towards the surface of the sea. Luckily, the people in the life raft also shone a torch. Over the next 20 minutes we managed to rescue the remaining four and then headed home.

We ended up rescuing five men and one woman who had been working on a commercial fishing boat. While pulling in a net full of fish, they were broadsided by a large wave which tipped them over. The crew managed to grab their emergency beacon and get the life raft off the deck before the ship sank.


Win a signed copy of ‘Emergency Response: Life, Death, and Helicopters’

Emergency response

To enter to win, email westpac_social_media@westpac.co.nz or  during the entry period and provide an answer to the question, “how many people were rescued by Dave and his team in the mission from the above extract from his book, Emergency Response”?

Include your name, mailing address and contact phone number in your entry.

Entries close 28 March 2018 at 11:59pm.

Please read the terms and conditions before entering.

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