“I normally hear it before I see it. It’s very important to have that security and peace of mind so that if anyone does have a serious injury, it wouldn’t take hours to get to a hospital.”
The South Waikato is home to some of New Zealand’s most scenic rolling hills and thriving agricultural communities, but it’s definitely Chopper Country – farm accidents in remote areas are part of daily life in the region.
Waikato President of Federated Farmers of New Zealand, Andrew McGiven, says the chopper gives locals a sense of security within the rural landscape.
“The Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter cuts out a lot of time to the closest hospital. I live up in the bush, so it could take a couple of hours by the time an ambulance could get here,” McGiven said.
The chopper is so important to the local farmers, that the Waikato Farmers Trust is one of its sponsors, along with Westpac.
The Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter is renowned for flying injured patients to the Waikato Hospital when ground ambulances cannot get to the scene in time.
One winter afternoon last year a 57-year-old woman sustained suspected pelvis injuries and a fractured wrist from a horse riding accident.
The horse fell and rolled onto her body on a farm west of Putaruru.
Intensive Care Paramedics arrived in the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter and transferred her to the hospital for successful treatment.
In 2017, a 12-year-old girl was also rescued by the helicopter crew after having an altercation with a cow in Te Awamutu.
She was seriously injured after helping her parents move stock. The animal attacked the girl and threw her up against the back of a trailer.
The youngster suffered internal and external bruising, ligament damage to her hips and pelvis and a mild brain injury, but recovered well after the chopper’s quick response to her mother’s 111 call.
Medical paramedic for the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter, Simon Burrows, says a typical day for him and the chopper crew could include anything from a hospital transfer for local residents to an incident on the back of a farm.
“Recently we flew out to a hut that had burnt down after a gas tank explosion. The only way to help these two people was to land at night using out night vision goggles. Being able to help in these types of situations is a satisfying part of the job,” Burrows said.