15 Apr 2024
Eastland Rescue Stuart at hospital

Stuart Brenchley has seen some gruesome injuries that required the response of a rescue helicopter and, as a result, has spent decades fundraising for services around the country. But until last summer, he had never been on board himself.

“I've been farming for 30-odd years so have seen lots of situations where the helicopter teams have had to be called out . . . they do a bloody awesome job,” he says. “The reality is, those of us living in rural areas would be stuffed without them.”

Originally from te Tairāwhiti, Stuart had only recently returned from Hawke's Bay to live and work on a farm inland from Gisborne when he got first-hand experience of being picked up by a rescue helicopter.

He and his partner were driving on a rural gravel road when he felt the onset of an absent seizure – a sudden loss of consciousness.

“My partner tried to grab the wheel but it all happened too quickly . . . the ute crashed through a fence and barrelled down a bank down to a creek,” he says.

“If the ute had've rolled we'd have been in big trouble. Or if it happened a hundred metres up the road we'd have been in big trouble, too.”

As it happened it was bad enough. Though both were wearing seatbelts they were “pretty banged up” and there was no cellphone service in the area.

“My partner got it worse than me . . . she was sort of ragdolled so had lots of little injuries. Even so, while I was still out cold she crawled back up to wave some people down and they shot up the road to call emergency services.

“The (Trust Tairāwhiti Eastland Rescue) helicopter got there first (and) what a top team . . . they were bloody awesome.”

And even before he had recovered Stu was thinking of ways to show his gratitude.
“As soon as I'm well enough to smack over a deer I'll be dropping some venison off at the hangar, and a donation for the Eastland Helicopter Rescue Trust as well.”