Helping To Save Lives in the Waikato
The Westpac Waikato Rescue Helicopter service was founded in 1987 and has touched the lives of almost 10,000 patients since its inception. Last year the current Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter, operated by the Philips Search and Rescue Trust, completed 385 missions in the region, in some cases making the difference between life and death.
Recently the Bell 222B helicopter, reached its 25th year and the Trust recognised the need for a newer machine, ultimately to provide more advanced rescue capabilities. A fundraising campaign was launched with a target of $4.5million for a replacement rescue helicopter.
“Thousands of Kiwis will need this service over the coming year – the reality is next time it could be any one of us, a member of our family or a friend,” said Chief pilot Grant Bremner.
After a two-year quest, a new rescue and air ambulance helicopter was purchased for the Waikato and King Country community. “The multi-role BK117 is a multi-million dollar investment and the capabilities that it adds to our rescue portfolio are immense,” said Grant, “all emergency services and those members of the public living in our region will greatly benefit from this investment.”
The new helicopter will enhance the current level of air ambulance service with increased search and rescue capability that will include a 600lb (two-person) winch for patient extraction from difficult terrain as well as night vision for increased night flying safety.
In March 2013 after becoming aware of the needs of this vital community service, the local Plymouth Brethren fund raising team became involved. After visiting the Helicopter crew and discussing their requirements the Brethren team decided on a target of $4,900.00 which would enable the Trust to purchase the vital winch stretcher.
A fund raising campaign was launched within the Plymouth Brethren community and through the month of April they smashed their target and raised $7,805.00 of donations.
As the Brethren presented the Trust with the cheque, Kylie Harcourt, Marketing Manager said “We are truly grateful for your support and this thanks is not only from us, but from the people that you will help save. I would like to pass on how delighted we were to receive your generous donation and to thank you all for the efforts in raising funds for our significant project.”
These funds have enabled the Trust to not only purchase the patient stretcher for the winch but also a crane that will lift the very heavy winch on and off the helicopter. Two very necessary items that enable winch rescues.
Waikato’s latest air ambulance is now in the final stages of becoming rescue-ready as the fundraising efforts to pay for the multi-million dollar lifesaving machine wrap up.