Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Hawke’s Bay Helicopter Rescue Trust, Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter Service

Late 1960’s
In the early days, local helicopter operators were used when helicopter retrieval and transport was required for patients.
The local operator would come in from their agricultural work and reconfigure the helicopter into an air ambulance. They would remove the spraying gear and replace it with a stretcher, which was often mounted on to the helicopter skids!
As you can see from the photo, once airborne, communication with the patient was almost impossible due to the noise of the helicopter and wind.
The helicopter would normally take the patient to a waiting ambulance before being transported to hospital by road.

In the early 1970’s the part-time service attended between 20-30 rescues a year.
The helicopter would sometimes transport the patient directly to hospital or to the road where it would be met by an ambulance.

In 1984, the Hawke’s Bay Helicopter Rescue Trust was established from an auction group set up by Chief Inspector Paul Wiseman.
The service was initially established for water rescues and in 1989 expanded to involve patient transfers, police searches, accident recovery and marine emergencies.
The auction group included the Porangahau Diving Club, Waimarama Surf Club, Police, Civil Defense, as well as existing members Noel Houston, Garrie Griffiths and Trauma Doctors Forbes Bennett and Greg Beecham.
Dr Forbes Bennett and Dr Ted Ward from the Hastings Hospital were key supporters of the retrieval and transportation system offered by the service. They were committed to the ‘miracle hour’ theory of getting severely injured people to a medical facility for treatment.
In 1985 a CAA approved helicopter pad was completed at the Hastings Hospital (now named the Hawke’s Bay Regional Hospital).
A Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, owned by Wanganui Aero Works, was used for the rescues and in 1989 the machine was sold to Mike Groome of Te Onepu Helicopters and continued doing part time rescue work.
1988 HB Helicopter Rescue SquadClick image to zoom in
With the arrival of better helicopters (Hughes 500 and Bell Jet Ranger) the air ambulance service greatly improved, especially for the patient as they could be carried internally.

In 1991, the Trust came to a ‘cross roads’ when Te Onepu Helicopters sold the helicopter and the Trust had to decide whether to discontinue or to set up a dedicated service.
The Trust and the Hospital recognised the value of the service to the region and decided to pursue the option of setting up a dedicated service.
Andy Train, who was the Commissioner of the Hawkes Bay District Health Board, approached Hastings businessman Mike Toogood, to see if he would be interested in undertaking the necessary investment and work to establish a dedicated rescue service.
Within five months, the dedicated service became a reality when Mike Toogood purchased a Eurocopter AS350BA “Squirrel” helicopter and secured sponsorship support from Lowe Walker NZ Ltd.

As a condition of the Lowe Walker sponsorship, Mike Toogood became the CEO of the Trust and held responsibility for the operation of the rescue helicopter service, responsibilities that continue to the present time.
In 1992, the first helicopter hangar was built at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Hospital and in 2001 a larger facility was established in the hospital grounds when the hospital decided they needed the original site. The hangers were built with generous support from the Hawke’s Bay businesses and the community.
In 1997, Lowe Walker changed their company name to Lowe Corporation. The service has since been known as the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter Service and Lowe Corporation continue to be the Trust’s Principal Sponsor.
The Hawke's Bay Helicopter Rescue Trust continues to flourish and expand its capabilities, thanks to the generous support and contributions made by individuals, groups, businesses and sponsors within the Hawke’s Bay community.

Friends of the Hawke’s Bay Helicopter Rescue Trust, Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter Service support this service with their financial donations each year.

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