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Combined RNZAF, Police and civilian effort brings injured tramper out of Waikato bush

A Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopter crew joined forces with civilian emergency medical services and a Police-led Land Search & Rescue (LandSAR) team to successfully winch an injured tramper out of dense bush in a remote part of the Waikato.

17 October, 2023

The man had broken his leg in a narrow valley about 35km west of Hamilton. The terrain and gusty weather conditions prevented a civilian helicopter and paramedic from reaching him.

The NH90 captain, Flight Lieutenant Hamish Park, said the rescue mission took place last Thursday after careful assessment to ensure the rescue could be safely carried out.

“We first landed at a staging area to consult the Police LandSAR controller, then located the injured person in the bush and winched down the two Defence Force medics."

“Then we waited back at the staging area while they treated the casualty and prepared him to be extracted. Once we got the call they were ready, we returned to the scene and winched out the patient in a stretcher, escorted by a medic, and then his wife, also escorted by a medic.”

An NH90 helicopter hovers over the area where they are about to pick up a patient. There is a lot bush and a waterfall. Air Force personnel conduct the winch of the patient. An Air Force Aviator with a someone from LandSAR work to support a patient before the winch

A New Zealand Defence Force medic attends to the injured tramper aboard the NH90 helicopter

The pair were flown to Hamilton Airport and the man transferred to hospital by ambulance.

“It was a fantastic team effort between agencies,” Flight Lieutenant Park said.

“Great co-ordination was provided throughout by the on-scene civilian aircraft and the support from all involved – from LandSAR to airfield operations and Air bp refuelling at Hamilton – was exemplary.”

Flight Lieutenant Park said it was always rewarding to bring people out of bad situations.

“I’m proud of the NH90 crew, everyone did a brilliant job - but it was particularly satisfying that the Air Force and various agencies worked so well together to use the most suitable platform available for a rescue with the best possible result.

“We train extensively for these situations and it really paid off out there,” he said.