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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Rescue helicopter raises flight funds

Donations are needed to help keep Wairarapa’s rescue helicopter up in the air. PHOTOS/FILE

GEORGE SHIERS
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Life Flight carried out 85 helicopter rescue missions in Wairarapa in 2021 amid a record year for rescues nationwide. But funds are needed to help keep the helicopter in the air.

Last year 33 of the missions were medical events such as strokes and cardiac arrests, 26 were responding to crashes, 22 were inter-hospital transfers, and four were search and rescue missions.

Helicopter crews nationwide carried out a record-breaking 9500 missions in 2021.

There were 15 helicopter trusts nationwide. Wairarapa was served by Life Flight Trust, which covered the Wellington-Marlborough regions. In 2021, they flew 468 missions.

More recently, four Wairarapa missions were flown on Easter weekend in April, which included responding to two car crashes, the hospital transfers of a child and a person in their 20s, and a response to a boating incident.

The Life Flight rescue helicopter in action.

Life Flight Trust chief executive officer Mark Johnston said public support was now needed to help raise funds as part of the annual Chopper Appeal, and people were encouraged to donate over the course of the month.

“It’s great to see people out exploring our own beautiful country at every opportunity, but it does mean we’ve seen an increase in people needing our assistance,” Johnston said.

“We rely on donations from the public to keep our Westpac Rescue Helicopter in the sky, and we’re hugely grateful for everyone who’s able to donate over the month of May.”

The helicopter service is free for patients, and Westpac is the principal sponsor of Life Flight Trust. Westpac also funds the marketing and administration costs of the Chopper Appeal.

Westpac NZ chief executive Catherine McGrath said that the helicopter rescue service was essential and that rescue crews were working harder than ever.

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“Accident and illness can affect any of us at any time,” she said.

“Knowing help could be only minutes away, even in some of our most remote locations, is so important in a country as diverse as ours. And when we’ve learnt over the last couple of years that we can live, work and explore from almost anywhere, knowing the chopper crews are there for you when you need them is so important.”

McGrath said that 100 per cent of all donations collected in Wairarapa would go towards funding Life Flight Trust.

“We know that living is getting more expensive, so every dollar is greatly appreciated.

“All money donated in your region goes straight to your local chopper service, so you know that your donation is supporting your community.”

Equipment on the helicopter could vary significantly in price.

A dog harness cost $459, whereas a defibrillator cost $42,500. Other equipment included night-vision goggles at $25,000 or a winch at $10,927. Survival suits, which could prevent hypothermia in cold water by keeping the crew dry and warm for up to two hours, cost $1167 each.

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