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07Jan

Canterbury’s Rescue Angels

When he felt the earth move below him as he lay with his leg crushed between the farm ute and his motorbike, Fairlie farmer Andrew Hurst felt relief dull some of the pain surging through his body.

The shaking signalled the arrival of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, and the saving of his leg.

For Andrew, a normal day on the farm had turned into disaster on a dime. It was only the skill, speed and care of the Rescue Helicopter that meant he will soon be close to walking normally again with both legs intact.

“I had come back from a bull auction and was driving my two-wheeler around the farm, everything seemed good, then before I knew it in a split second I was under the front of our farm Hilux I did not see coming from the other direction.” 

The contact had been significant, leaving his right leg torn, twisted and badly broken.

As predicted by the local fire brigade, the chopper arrived to whisk him straight through to Christchurch hospital.

“I was told when I went into A & E I would probably lose my leg. But the surgeon managed to save it, and this was partly thanks to the skill of the Rescue Helicopters paramedics - they didn’t tourniquet it, kept the blood flowing which was a very skilled call to make.”

It took 13 operations and intensive physio to get Andrew to where he is now, and it means that before Christmas he can expect to be walking close to normal again.

The accident has also meant the Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust has an ardent ambassador, keen to raise funds for the worthy cause. 

His first effort was an auction evening in Fairlie, and he managed to sell out the 300 tickets within a week and was left considering holding another event for those who missed out.

“Farming down here, we really are quite remote, and people here really appreciate the need for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter service and are keen to support it.”

After his accident Andrew made a point of visiting the base at Christchurch airport and thanking the staff. Tatsu, the paramedic who was first contact on the day greeted him with relieved astonishment.

“I shouted to him that ‘I still have it!’ He was so happy to know I still had my leg, he had literally held the two pieces of my leg in his hands.”

Christine Prince, CEO of Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue Trust said stories like Andrews existed all over the massive catchment the service covers.

She says all up the service covers a region with 600,000 people, across both coasts and a land area that accounts for one quarter of New Zealand’s total.

This is all with two Westpac Rescue Helicopters based at Christchurch, and one, sponsored by Roa Mining on the West Coast. 

All up in 2019 the crew responded to over 900 missions with help from the community across the region.

“But like all charities, Covid-19 this year has hit us hard. We have lost those valuable weeks of fundraising.”

“The money we raise goes straight into the service to cover operational costs, equipment and training needs. We aim to raise about $6 million a year, there is very little spare, and we are blessed with a very good supporter base in the community. But of course, there is a greater need than ever for more,” says Christine.

She welcomes the move by Ruralco to offer members the opportunity to make a direct donation to the service through their Ruralco Card.

“It is only thanks to the support of rural communities who value the service we can do what we do, and this will be a very seamless way for Ruralco members to support us.”

Visit the site www.airresecue.co.nz

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