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Sick Seaman winched to safety

Sick Seaman winched to safety

The Wellington based Westpac Rescue Helicopter winched a sick seaman off a trawler near Westport this morning.

Life Flight, who coordinates medical advice for sick and injured people at sea, was contacted by the Maritime Operations Centre at around 4 this morning regarding a sick seaman off of the South Island's West Coast. After discussions with an ICU Consultant at Wellington Hospital it was decided that the man needed to be evacuated from the ship because he could be suffering from appendicitis.

The Christchurch based Westpac Rescue Helicopter was unable to respond due to the weather on the South Island and the Nelson Rescue Helicopter was unavailable to perform the winch job so the Wellington based Westpac Rescue Helicopter was asked to respond.

The helicopter, with a Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic onboard, left Wellington at 8 am this morning and arrived at Westport at about 9:35 am. "It was a challenging flight due to the weather" says Westpac Rescue pilot Harry Stevenson. "We had to work our way around some showers and thunderstorms but the flight went OK".

Once arriving at Westport the crew landed, geared up for the winch rescue and then flew about 3 miles off the coast to where the ship was waiting.
The ship the sick man was on was a 50 metre long Indonesian fishing trawler. Conditions at the scene were rough, with winds of 40 - 50 knots (74 - 92 k/ph) and sea swells of 4 - 5 metres.

"The ship couldn't make it past the Westport sandbar and conditions were too rough for a boat transfer" says Westpac Rescue Helicopter crewman Dave Greenberg. "Once we arrived overhead we winched our paramedic down and then after a quick medical check the paramedic and patient were both winched back into the helicopter".

Once onboard the patient, a 28 year old Indonesian man, was flown to the Greymouth Hospital Emergency Department, arriving at about 10:25 am.

The man has been admitted to Greymouth Hospital and is said to be comfortable.


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