Carnage overawes helicopter crewman

Experienced rescue helicopter crewman Simon Duncan has never dealt with anything on the scale of...
Experienced rescue helicopter crewman Simon Duncan has never dealt with anything on the scale of the Christchurch earthquake. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Garden City Helicopters general manager Simon Duncan had seen a lot of carnage in his life as a rescue helicopter crewman, but he has been "overawed" by the scale of what he has seen this week.

The former rescue helicopter crewman was called back to duty this week, as every helicopter in his fleet, including three rescue helicopters, and three rescue helicopters from Dunedin, as well as others from Wellington, Auckland and Northland, were put into action to assist with the rescue mission following Tuesday's earthquake.

Minutes after the quake struck, Christchurch's Westpac Rescue Helicopter was in the air to get a situation report for ambulance services.

"Straight away, you could see it was a bomb site."

When he saw houses that had been demolished, he texted Dunedin rescue helicopter pilot Graeme Gale to get helicopters up there.

For the next 24 hours, 60 pilots and rescue crew members shared the load to keep all of the helicopters, as well as several flying doctor planes, in the air.

The main task in the first instance was transporting patients from Christchurch hospitals to hospitals in other parts of the country to make room for the injured.

On Wednesday, crews did reconnaissance over walking tracks on the Port Hills, where they discovered several bodies of people who had been killed by falling boulders.

Pilots spent Thursday putting technicians on buildings to secure feeder sites for radio communications.

Yesterday, they spent the day dropping water on cliffs at Redcliffs and near Port Lyttelton, sluicing loose rocks of the cliff faces.

And their contribution is far from over.

Garden City Helicopters, supported by Helicopters Otago, has already been asked to keep helicopters available for duty until at least Friday.

"I'm overawed by the scale of it. It is incredible.

"Christchurch will never, ever be the same."



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