Back country tramps are a regular activity for us. On Tuesday 19 September 2023 at about 4pm we were very close to completing a 2 day tramp on Mt Pirongia. Mt Pirongia is a very rugged bush covered area with a jumble of peaks, ridges, saddles and deep valleys. The weather on the day was a mixture of high cloud and clear sky, but the wind was strong with sudden gusts.
We were on the Mahaukura Track, climbing up the southern side of Wharauroa just below the peak. We were pulling ourselves up by tree roots and rocks, when Mary let out a sudden cry of pain. She had dislocated her left shoulder while reaching high up above her. David was able to lower her down to the ledge where he was standing. Mary was in intense pain. We were able to both activate the PLB1 beacon and also call police on a mobile phone because we were so high up.
A Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter was dispatched to the scene and located us within approximately 45 minutes of the accident. There was no suitable location nearby for the helicopter to land and they withdrew briefly to prepare for Mary’s rescue. That was only the beginning of the drama.
Shortly after, when the helicopter was about 100 to 200m in front of us in the saddle between two peaks, Wharauroa and Mahaukura, to our horror it was as if the helicopter was dumped into the dense bush in the saddle below us, then silence. This all happened in a matter of seconds.
Within minutes we heard voices in the bush, and then the first of the crew appeared below us and told us that none of them had been injured.
What an immense relief after seeing the people who had come to rescue Mary involved in that horrific crash. They all appeared bringing with them their paramedic kit and rescue gear.
The crew were amazing – calm and clear headed. Having just gone through a most traumatic experience themselves in the helicopter, they were totally focussed on helping Mary where we were up on the ledge on the track. They must have been shattered inside, yet none of that showed as they tended to Mary.
Two more helicopters arrived on the scene from Auckland and Taranaki.
Mary and the original paramedic were winched up into the helicopter directly from the ledge, and flown to Waikato Hospital. Everyone else on the ground was winched up into the third helicopter on the scene and also transported to Waikato Hospital.