Life-Saving Service Celebrates 21 Years | Philips Search and Rescue Trust

Life-Saving Service Celebrates 21 Years

It may have changed brand names more than once, but the familiar sound of the TECT Rescue Helicopter flying overhead never changes; signaling the untiring, life-saving duty of care that is being provided to the people of the Coastal Bay of Plenty region.

The 2nd of July marks the TECT Rescue Helicopter’s 21 years of service as an air medical and lifesaving rescue provider – surely, without question, one of the Coastal Bay of Plenty’s life-saving success stories.

“It was an ideal location to establish the service on the eastern coastline,” says founding Pilot and Base Manager Liam Brettkelly. “A region with a fast-growing population, a growing network of roads, the Kaimai Ranges, commercial fishing boats, farming and recreational areas, and off-shore islands – justified the need for a rescue helicopter.”

Established in the Year 2000, the fledgling rescue helicopter with then-sponsor Tranz Rail displayed on its fresh livery, was tasked on its first life-saving flight five days after inception. The distress call was for a two-year-old, who had wandered away from a larger group.  Heavy rain during the previous few days had drained into a septic tank, partly filling it.  The toddler managed to squeeze under a fenced-off area, falling into the tank.  Within minutes he was found face down, unconscious in the water.

Toddler, Lathan, would not be alive today without a rapid life-saving air rescue.

“That day cemented our reason for being,” says Brettkelly, also a father of very young sons at the time.

From its humble beginnings two decades ago, when the decision was made to establish a rescue helicopter service in the eastern Bay of Plenty region, the TECT Rescue Helicopter has steadily expanded, with ongoing changes and improvements to the service.

Today, callouts to mass-casualties, road side and off-road incidents, marine mayday calls, and bush and mountain search and rescue missions, mean crew of the TECT Rescue Helicopter, at the peak of professional excellence and capability, respond to approximately 40 missions a month – a rising demand from its earliest beginnings of one mission almost every four days.

Maintaining strong relationships with businesses, organisations and community groups throughout has also been pivotal in sustaining an essential service that faces ongoing challenges in the ever-changing air medical and rescue environment.

Today, rising demand for the rescue helicopter’s life-saving service shows no signs of lessening as is evidenced by its substantial increase in mission numbers, including the full support coverage it gives to the wider Coastal Bay of Plenty.

Logging a record-breaking total of 448 life-saving missions in 2020 alone, the TECT Rescue Helicopter has touched the lives of more than 3,300 patients since its inception in 2000. What began with a solo pilot two decades ago, has now grown to a team of around 13, consisting of pilots, crew and Intensive Care Paramedics, (ICPs); the addition of the latter enabling life-transforming medical treatment outcomes and dramatically reduced response times, thus significantly raising levels of patient care.

Anyone at any time may need a rescue helicopter.  The TECT Rescue Helicopter, 21 years on from its inception, continues to provide a reassuring and vital community service to the people of the Coastal Bay of Plenty region and further afield.

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Your support ensures rescue helicopters are available to your community.
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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