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Glider’s crash landing

The Wairarapa gliding community is reeling after a freak incident at Papawai Airfield.

Experienced local pilot Michael O’Donnell was airlifted to hospital after a “hard landing” on the runway on Saturday.

Papawai residents reported hearing multiple sirens followed by a helicopter as emergency services rushed to the Tilsons Rd airfield at 3pm.

Wellington Wairarapa Gliding Club president Simon Casey said the accident happened in a matter of seconds during take-off.

“He was flying his private glider and was on the winch launch when it released early.”

He said the result was a “hard landing” on the runway.

Casey said it was too soon to speculate about why the glider had detached but said the Civil Aviation Association [CAA] had been notified.

He said it was the only injury incident at the club that he could recall, and was proud of how the club members had responded.

However, it had been stressful for everyone involved.

“We’re definitely in shock and wishing Michael a speedy recovery. We would just love him to come back fully repaired.” Greytown Volunteer Fire Brigade responded to the accident with two fire trucks.

Chief fire officer Steve Meyrick said the jaws-of-life was necessary to extricate O’Donnell safely.

“It’s a confined space. We had to chop the front of the glider off to extricate him. He was conscious but in quite a bit of pain,” he said.

Life Flight Westpac Rescue Helicopter crewman Colin Larsen said the helicopter landed shortly after 3pm, with the crew assisting Wellington Free Ambulance and Fire and Emergency [FENZ].

“When we arrived on scene, ambulance and FENZ had already begun extrication of the pilot.

“It was a long-winded process. He was cocooned in the aircraft and we had to dismantle it around him.”

Larsen said O’Donnell was considered a status two patient, suffering serious injuries that had the potential to escalate.

“So we were taking all precautions in that regard.”

He said O’Donnell was initially transferred to Wellington Hospital before being taken by plane to Christchurch Hospital.

Casey said he had been in touch with O’Donnell’s family and understood he was undergoing surgery yesterday.

He said he was expecting an update on his condition last night.

The CAA confirmed it had been notified of the incident, but as of yesterday had no further comment.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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