Centimetres from 30m cliff plunge

Brian Benn.
Brian Benn.
A geology student who fell down a cliff face near Dunedin yesterday narrowly escaped death or serious injury when he stopped only centimetres from a 30m sheer drop to water.

Senior Sergeant Brian Benn, of Dunedin, said the 20-year-old University of Otago student received a suspected fractured ankle in the fall at Heyward Point at 3.50pm.

The student came within centimetres of having far more serious injuries and was ''very lucky'', Snr Sgt Benn said.

He said the man had been studying rock formations on the point near Whareakeake (Murdering Beach) with a friend when he fell, coming to a stop on a ledge 6m below.

His friend called for help immediately and a rescue operation was swiftly launched.

Knowing the terrain was difficult, Snr Sgt Benn, a search and rescue specialist, enlisted the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter, which was at Dunedin Hospital delivering an injured skier.

The helicopter flew to Heyward Point and was able to get close enough to the ledge for paramedic Doug Flett to step off the skids and help the victim in, not requiring a winch.

''From the time we called the helicopter to the time he was in it, [it] was 46 minutes,'' Snr Sgt Benn said.

''I'd call that a world-class rescue.''

The helicopter had been the only real option in this case, because it would have been a ''tricky'' land rescue, and would certainly have gone on long into the dark, he said.

debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

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