Impromptu walk ends in Westpac Rescue Helicopter ride

Doreen O’Brien and her friend Dorothy are both strong and spirited ladies in their 70’s, who were recently in a horrific accident together in rural Waikato. Dorothy’s memory of the accident is still vivid but Doreen remains unsure as to what actually happened.

They were both at a rally with their Motor Home Group at Jones Landing in rural Waikato when they decided to join fellow members for an impromptu walk along the river trail. Dorothy was watching her footing as they climbed a set of stairs which unfortunately led her straight into a tree branch.

“I always look at my feet because there are so many roots and you’ve got to see where your feet are going,” explains Dorothy, still in shock the accident happened. Her natural reaction was to stumble backwards, so Doreen reached out in an attempt to steady her friend from behind, but this was to no avail.

“The next thing I knew we were both rolling down the bank … our friends said we went in tandem” says Dorothy. “I remember hearing gasps coming from the top of the stairs and then an airy silence when we came to a stop at the bottom of the gully.”

Doreen and Dorothy rolled over each other several times as they fell down the bank. They then dropped off a small cliff edge before coming to a sudden stop. Dorothy was lucky she landed on soft soil, but Doreen landed on a rock. She was knocked out in the process and lay silent.

Dorothy slowly attempted to get up and was expecting the worst when she saw Doreen. “I looked over at her and she was out cold, but when she started to moan … that was music to my ears.”

Dorothy was lucky she only suffered minor bruising, but Doreen’s injuries were more serious. She had four broken ribs, fluid on her lungs, abrasions on her back, a damaged knee and lacerations to her head. Her husband alerted emergency services who dispatched the local St John Ambulance. Dorothy was helped out of the bush and treated at the scene, but Doreen’s injuries required urgent medical attention and due to the remoteness of her location and fear of internal injuries the Westpac Waikato Air Ambulance was dispatched.

“It didn’t seem to take long,” says Dorothy. “I was sitting in the ambulance and looked over my shoulder … I could hear the helicopter coming.”

Doreen was in and out of consciousness, but also remembers the sound of the helicopter as it neared Jones Landing. She was then stretcher-carried out of the bush by St John paramedics to a nearby paddock where the helicopter had landed.

Doreen’s husband George joined her onboard the flight and is amazed at the speed of her recovery. “I’ve got them to thank for me being here. If it hadn’t have been for the helicopter, the ambulance might not have got me to hospital in time and then … who knows,” says Doreen.

“Let’s not go there” responds Dorothy with a wavering voice.

Doreen laughs “You can’t kill weeds Dorothy, they might wilt a little bit, but we spring back!”

New Zealand’s Rescue Helicopter service flies approximately 5,000 missions nationwide each year.

We cover Aotearoa, New Zealand

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