Heart attack at sea on a lifeless trawler | Philips Search and Rescue Trust

Heart attack at sea on a lifeless trawler

Your donations mad a dramatic sea rescue possible when an engineer suffered a heart attack and had to be winched to safety in challenging conditions.

20 November started as a quiet one for the crew of the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter, until they received a callout to a deep-sea trawler 30 nautical miles off the Tauranga coast.

The trawler’s engineer had suffered a heart attack.  The trawler also had heart problems; its engine had seized and had lost propulsion.

Anthony Van Der Heide was in the engine room running through possible breakdown repairs when he experienced chest pain that soon became unbearable.

With time not on Anthony’s side and the realisation it would take over six hours to tow the trawler to shore, the skipper knew an emergency medical airlift was the engineers only option. But that was not going to be an easy task, as poor weather conditions meant poor visibility.

Pilot, Dan Harcourt recounts “Straight away the mission presented a challenge because of the weather. We prepared to fly Instrument Flight Rules across to Tauranga.” 

Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) is when a pilot relies on the instruments in the cockpit as a guide instead of his own vision when the weather is so poor there is limited visibility.

The crew made contact with the boat’s skipper and confirmed that it wasn’t possible to steer the boat or put it on a heading to keep it into wind, “so we knew it would be additionally challenging from that respect,” said Dan.

Once the rescue helicopter reached the trawler, it hovered above and using the NZCT Rescue Winch lowered a medic onto the deck to assess and stabilise the engineer.

“I have no problem admitting I was scared,” said Anthony. “When the rescue helicopter arrived and the medic was lowered onto the deck I felt huge relief.”

“As they helped me into a harness and winched me into the helicopter, off a heaving deck, the realisation finally dawned on me that genes had caught up with me,” admits Anthony, whose father and grandfather died of heart attacks in their 40s.

Anthony, now back at work following the all clear after angioplasty surgery.

“I am alive because of people who risked their lives to be there when things went terribly wrong.  Thanks again to all the rescue personnel involved.  You may or may not know how much it matters.”

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Your rescue helicopter can be airborne in 10 minutes and, in a life or death situation, this speed and agility can make all the difference. The timely assistance that rescue helicopters provide can reduce disability and improve survival – the sooner treatment begins, the greater chance of patient recovery.

We are partially funded by a government contract with National Ambulance Sector Office (NASO). We rely heavily on the generosity of sponsors and the community to help fund the shortfall that allows us to be rescue ready 24/7, 365 days of the year. This crucial financial support ensures our rescue helicopter can continue to bring life-saving equipment, rescue personnel, and intensive care paramedics directly to the patient.

Without your support, your rescue helicopter would not be able to remain operational on a 24/7, 365 day a year basis. This could mean a serious delay in people being rescued or transported to hospital for urgent treatment.

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