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Rescue helicopter flies White Island burns patients to Wellington

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Some injured tourists from the White Island volcanic eruption have been flown to Wellington for specialised treatment in the burns unit at Hutt Hospital. There are 30 patients in six hospitals around New Zealand — not only Hutt but also Middlemore, Auckland City, Tauranga, Waikato and Christchurch. Twenty-five patients are critical with the remainder stable but serious. A rescue helicopter trust yesterday described the challenging task of moving them to where they could best be treated.

Press Release – Philips Search and Rescue Trust – December 10
As part of a national coordinated response, all five units under the North Island’s largest rescue helicopter operation, Philips Search & Rescue Trust, were dispatched to Whakatane during yesterday’s Whakaari/White Island eruption.

Pilots, intensive care paramedics and crew onboard the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter, TECT Rescue Helicopter, Greenlea Rescue Helicopter and Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter, and their nationwide Westpac Air Ambulance were mobilised to transport, and at times stabilise, critically injured patients from Whakatane while en route to the appropriate care units.

Philips Search & Rescue Trust CEO, David Wickham expressed concern for all affected during the event,

“Through this tragedy, we are grateful to have onboard the high-level medical skills of our own advanced intensive care paramedics, their ability to treat the seriously injured is often pivotal for stable transfers by our accomplished pilots and crew”.

From Whakatane Hospital, TECT Rescue Helicopter transferred a 19 year old man to Waikato Hospital, followed by a transfer of a man in his late 40s to Middlemore hospital. Both suffered serious burns.

Staged at Whakatane airport, the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter received a critically injured 19 year old man, who was treated by the rescue helicopter’s intensive care paramedic then flown to Middlemore Hospital.

Greenlea Rescue Helicopter crew, also staged at Whakatane airport, assisted with triage of incoming patients via air, and transferred one male patient to Waikato Hospital. Initially tasked to Hastings, the Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter was dispatched to Whakatane Hospital to transfer a 40 year old woman to Waikato Hospital. The Westpac Air Ambulance transported four patients, including two to Wellington, then a further two from Whakatane Hospital.

During emergency efforts, various pilots, intensive care paramedics and rescue personnel remained on the local airfield to assist and prepare patients for further transfer. Due to the nature of the event, critical injuries featured serious burns, making the need for urgent attention via air, crucial. Pilots and crew continued support into the early hours of this morning.

Philips Search & Rescue Trust operates as a charity and relies on support from sponsors and community donations. The crucial financial support ensures our rescue helicopter can continue to bring life-saving equipment, rescue personnel and intensive care paramedics directly to the patient. For further information please visit our website rescue.org.nz

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