No Apologies Over Air Force Incident
Dunedin based National MP Katherine Rich has confirmed that it was her request which lead to a Government decision to divert an Air Force Hercules aircraft back to Apia in Samoa to pick up a civilian.
"ACT MP Rodney Hide has tried to create an air of scandal about the incident. However I feel no shame whatsoever over my involvement, and commend the Government for having taken action.
"The incident began on Thursday August the 17th, when a 7 year old girl was run over at a pedestrian crossing in Dunedin. She suffered horrific injuries.
"Doctors in Dunedin told her father, a New Zealander who was at the time working on a contract in Samoa, that they would need to remove part of the girl's brain. The doctors said the father should return as quickly as possible because the girl was not expected to survive the night.
"There were no commercial flights that day and the man asked Defence Personnel in Apia if he could hitch a ride on their Hercules which was flying to New Zealand that night. The crew indicated they would be 'rapt' to take him, but Defence authorities in Auckland said no.
"The family contacted my office, and I in turn contacted the Prime Minister's office asking them to intervene on compassionate grounds. After consulting with the Minister of Defence they agreed to this request. The plane had already left Apia, but was diverted back to Samoa to pick up the father.
"These were exceptional circumstances. I believe it was entirely appropriate that this helping hand was extended. It would seem tragically unbalanced if our Defence personnel had not assisted in these circumstances, while they frequently expend time and money on search and rescue missions for yachties who in some cases voluntarily imperil their own lives.
"Faced with the same circumstances again I would have made exactly the same request as I did. It seems monstrous that this incident has been turned into an attempt by an MP to gain political capital.
"I am pleased to say the girl has survived the operation, however doctors have not yet established the degree of brain damage which she may have suffered.
"Once again I commend the actions taken by the Government in this case," Katherine Rich said.
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