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111 Crisis: Hide Acquires Rescue Centre Tapes

Police 111 Crisis: Rodney Hide Acquires Rescue Co-ordination Centre Tapes

By The Scoop Team

ACT leader Rodney Hide claims to have released recordings of a failed rescue attempt of a vessel in distress. He says the tragedy occurred because of a Police 111 communications centre failure.

Hide released details backing his claim on his website this evening and Scoop understands the issue will be reported on TVNZ's One News at 6pm.

Hide states: "UPDATE: Remember the Iron Maiden? The police North Comms failed for nearly two hours to launch the helicopter with two men in the water. They died. I now have the audio recordings of the desperate attempts of the Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand to get the police to get the helicopter launched," Rodney Hide wrote.

Hide continues: "Let me run through a summary of the sequence of events and failings. RCCNZ were advised at 7:16pm on 16 August 2004 that the Iron Maiden was down and that Mark and Greg had taken to the liferaft. Their concern was that the liferaft would drift onto Pandora Bank in an hour and capsize. Time was of the essence.

"The Police were in charge because the incident was classified as a Search Rescue Class II owing to the incident's closeness to the coast.

"At Class III RCCNZ take over.

"At 7:29 RCCNZ ring the police Northern Communications Centre (North Comms). Their concern was that the rescue helicopter be launched immediately. The recording and the transcript show that the police operator simply does not know what is happening. That's 13 critical minutes after the MAYDAY.

"The North Comms' operator does not know whether the helicopter has been dispatched or not and is infuriatingly vague and nonchalant.

"RCCNZ get put through to North Comms' Far North dispatcher. She explains that the Helicopter is on standby! She struggles because she's listening to two things at once. She wonders whether they have actually got life rafts and things on the. She is heard on the phone laughing nervously because she is having to listen to two things at once.

"There is no sense of urgency or professionalism

"At 7:42pm RCCNZ's David Wilson calls North Comm's supervisor Jed Oskam. Shockingly, the helicopter has been stood down. There are two men believed in the liferaft in heavy seas with very little time left and the police have stood the helicopter down. The very thing that could save them is stood down.

"Oskam explains, that the helicopter apparently is too far, it's too far away for them to be able to respond to this. This is totally false information.

"At 7:43 RCCNZ's John Dickson phones the National Police Liaison Officer for Search and Rescue based in Police Commissioner's Office, Geoff Logan. He knows nothing of the incident. His own Comms people haven't informed him. Time is wasted explaining to him what has happened. It's 27 minutes after the MAYDAY and the Police Liaison Officer has not been alerted. RCCNZ are desperate to get the police to launch the helicopter.

"At 7:56 Geoff Logan rings RCCNZ's David Wilson Just to let you know there is a chopper on the way, to the job at Pandora Bank, Cape Reinga and he repeats it is on the way and again, “it sounds as though they've got the chopper out there and having a look.

"This is not true. The helicopter is not on its way. It isn't launched for another hour.

"Geoff Logan realises the importance of the helicopter. He says, “The chopper is about the only thing that is going to get there in time. The only thing that is effective really.”

RCCNZ pick up a beacon at 8:32. They try to ring North Comms to tell them. They are put on hold!

"The helicopter is finally launched at 8:58pm. That’s one hour and 42 minutes after the MAYDAY. And remember RCCNZ believed that the men may only have had an hour before hitting the bank and capsizing.

"At 8:59 RCCNZ’s David Wilson is discussing with North Comms’ Jed Oskam over who should be co-ordinating the search and rescue operation.

"At 9:06 The police’s Far North District search co-ordinator Neil Pennington has yet to make it into the police station. He thinks that RCCNZ are in the best position to co-ordinate the rescue but isn’t able to make the decision.

"At 9:23 the Police Officer in Charge Search and Rescue (Whangarei) Cliff Metcalf declares “We don’t have a lot of assets in that area,” “I'm just wondering if we bump the scale to a Class III [i.e. and put RCCNZ in charge]", and “we just don'thave the assets".

"Finally, the RCCNZ are put in charge. But it’s too late. That's 2 hours and 7 minutes after the MAYDAY.

"'The Maritime Safety report into the incident states: "The vessel sank before the crew managed to deploy the liferaft, but the Skipper had time to grab the EPIRB [the beacon] and roughly tie it to his wrist. '

"When the liferaft hydrostatic release operated and the liferaft bobbed to the surface it is possible that the crew managed to board the raft but were later lost, possibly by the raft capsizing in the rough seas on the bank, but it is far more likely that the weather carried the raft beyond their reach before they could grab it.

"The Skipper adopted the H.E.L.P. position (heat escape lessening posture) to reduce heat loss, but succumbed to hypothermia before he could be rescued. With loss of consciousness due to hypothermia the Skipper was unable to protect himself from the sea spray and died of drowning.

"We don't know if they made it into the raft. We don't know if they could have been saved if the helicopter had been launched immediately."

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