Special mission to Beachlands

The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust brought the party to 25 year Beachlands residents Tony and Carol Hatton instead. Photo supplied

Crew of the Auckland & Coromandel Westpac Rescue Helicopter were tasked to a very special mission in Beachlands yesterday morning.

The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust had invited 25 year Beachlands residents Tony and Carol Hatton to this year’s Code:1 launch at their Mechanics Bay base last Thursday. Tony’s rescue in Northland’s Kellys Bay featured on last night’s show — the first of 10 new episodes.

It was with sadness that Tony rang the Trust last week saying he was unable to attend the launch party due to poor health. Tony was recently diagnosed with cancer.

After wishing him all the very best, the crew felt more could be done to make sure Tony didn’t miss out. They then struck upon an idea. If the Hattons could not come to the preview party, the crew would bring the party to them.

With the couple’s blessing and the rejuggling of training schedules, Pilot Rob Arrowsmith, crewman/co-pilot Simon Owen, and retired intensive care paramedic Bruce Kerr popped in to say hello and show Tony his episode before it screened last night.

All three men, who attended Tony’s mission on New Year’s Eve last year, were determined to make it happen. The only staff member who was unable to attend was HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) pre hospital and retrieval medicine doctor, Dr Brendan Wood who has since returned home to Canada.

Armed with morning tea and a laptop, the crew met outside the Hatton’s home and received a very warm welcome.

Tony, 74-years-old at the time of the accident, got into a spot of trouble while holidaying at Kellys Bay on the northern side of the Kaipara Harbour over summer. It was around midday New Years Eve and Tony was keen to take a quick dip.

Tony entered the water from the beach’s sea wall. As he landed, his feet and legs stuck fast in the mud below. Falling forward, he was unable to get up again. Carol, who was relaxing nearby with friends, says it soon became clear that something was very wrong.
Realising he was in trouble, Tony managed to crawl on his hands and knees, and get back to the safety of the sea wall. It was a struggle, but he made it out and on to land. The victim of a near-drowning, he had taken in a lot of sea water and collapsed with exhaustion.

Thanks to the quick thinking of the small seaside community and campers, emergency services were called in and within 28 minutes of being tasked, the Auckland & Coromandel Westpac Rescue Helicopter had arrived at the scene. In a serious condition, Tony, together with Carol, were air lifted to Auckland Hospital where Tony would spend several days recovering.

Tony and Carol agree, that had the helicopter not attended, Tony might not have made it. They were delighted to be able to thank the crew in person yesterday.

Tony’s health may be poor but he certainly has not lost his sense of humour. He joked with Carol that she could have told him to brush his hair for his big debut on the telly!

The mission was especially significant for intensive care paramedic Bruce Kerr. It was his second to last mission of over 3000. After 45 years serving as a paramedic including 20 years as an intensive care paramedic with the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, Bruce retired that same day. Bruce still works for the Trust on a part-time basis liaising with past patients and with community groups interested in learning more about the Trust’s work.
A new series of Code:1 aired at 8pm last night on TVNZ 1. Tony’s rescue was one of three missions to feature.

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