Stretcher wheel makes rescues easier: firefighter

Mule drivers (from left) Bri Clulee, Bryn Holgate, Bronwyn Paterson, Tim Dickey, Bruce Young and...
Mule drivers (from left) Bri Clulee, Bryn Holgate, Bronwyn Paterson, Tim Dickey, Bruce Young and volunteer patient Sam Wyber stand by their new ride on the Clutha Gold Cycle Trail. PHOTOS: NICK BROOK
Emergency services have a new asset for Lawrence locals and cycle trail travellers alike.

The Mule II stretcher wheel is a compact kit allowing responders to extract injured people from difficult, isolated terrain to emergency vehicles.

Lawrence firefighter Bri Clulee had attended Clutha Gold Trail emergencies with and without the new stretcher.

"In October 2022, a man crashed his bike badly on a fast downhill section of Big Hill, about halfway between Beaumont and Lawrence," she said.

An ambulance waited at the nearest cycle trail roadside entrance and a team proceeded on foot.

"He was a big guy in his 60s and it took six of us to carry his stretcher about 400m over rough ground to get him to the ambulance."

The incident made headlines and the man was taken to Dunedin Hospital with broken ribs leading to cardio complications.

"We had a similar callout in the same sort of area just last March," Mrs Clulee said.

The stowed Mule II stretcher wheel.
The stowed Mule II stretcher wheel.
"With the Mule it took three of us to move the patient and it was definitely faster, easier, less chance of dropping the patient and more comfortable for them."

Lawrence Volunteer Fire Brigade set about acquiring the stretcher in March last year.

"We were first approached by the Lawrence Car Club, then others who wanted to sponsor and contribute to the $3000 or $4000 we needed," Lawrence Chief Fire Officer Tim Dickey said.

"The Mule is on board our van but St John needs to know its capabilities ... so we’ve had three combined training sessions with the unit, which two people can set up in about 90 seconds.

"Nine out of 10 emergency calls go to St John then they often call fire brigade to assist, especially with things like difficult lifts.

"When we pitched [buying the Mule] to the prospective sponsors we wanted everyone to know it’s for far more than cycle trail visitors.

"It’s for local people on farms, forests, gymkhana, walking tracks and everything.

"They came through, and we and the whole community are grateful."