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Westpac Rescue Helicopter Saves Divers

29 August 2005

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Saves Divers

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Description of photo: Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic Tor Riley attends to the diver who was recovered after being dragged over 200 feet below the surface.


The Wellington based Westpac Rescue Helicopter rescued one of two divers who got caught up in severe underwater turbulence and dragged down to 64 metres (209 feet) below Cook Strait late this afternoon. The diver is currently on his way to the recompression chamber at Christchurch Hospital aboard the Life Flight NZ fixed wing air ambulance.

The two divers were diving off a 54' launch near the Brother Islands (just north of Tory Channel).

One diver came to the surface and was brought aboard the dive boat suffering from the bends - the skipper of the dive boat put out a "Mayday" call and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was on it's way within four minutes after being called by the Maritime Operations Centre and the NZ Police.

"By chance we were about to do winch training with the Lady Liz police launch so we had a winched trained paramedic and members of the NZ Police Dive Squad at our base" says Westpac Rescue Helicopter crewman Dave Greenberg. "Our paramedic was already in his rescue harness so we were airborne straight away".

The helicopter flew directly to the launch and our Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic was winched onto its aft deck. The wind was blowing about 40 kph and the seas were about two metres.

After a quick check by the paramedic the diver was put into a harness and the pair were winched back into the helicopter and the diver was taken straight to Wellington Hospital in a serious condition.

Once the diver was dropped at hospital the helicopter picked up the two members of the police dive squad and the helicopter returned to the area to search for the second diver. The helicopter joined several other boats in the area but was stood down after about an hour of searching. The other boats included the Lady Liz, Porirua Coastguard, the Santa Regina ferry and several other fishing and recreational boats.

"We had good search conditions but unfortunately we were unable to locate the 2nd diver" says Greenberg. "The diver we rescued said he got separated from his buddy on the way up and it is not known if he ever reached the surface".

The Life Flight NZ fixed wing air ambulance is currently transporting the diver we rescued to the recompression chamber in Christchurch. The diver is being escorted by a specialist medical flight team from Wellington Hospital. He is still believed to be in a serious condition.


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