Not many live to tell the tale after a plane crash, but the Warners did, and after a cold night in the bush the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter team winched them to safety and home to New Plymouth.
The 23rd August 2015 started as a routine day at the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter base for pilot Mike Parker and crewman Ben Wallbank. That was until later that evening when they received communication from the Rescue Co-ordination Centre of New Zealand with reports that a distress beacon signal had been detected from an area of rugged terrain, about 4km south of Matau. This married up with other reports that a plane had been reported missing when it failed to reach Stratford Aerodome.
For Alan and Anne Warner of Waitara, this was the day that would see both them and their Zenith Zodiac aircraft left in dense bush, 8km west of Whangamomona whilst enroute home from the family bach at Whitianga.
“The Airforce was out searching through the night and we started at daylight. It took a while to narrow them down, but a fixed-wing plane narrowed down the location and directed us to the site,” recalls pilot Mike Parker.
For crewman Ben, where the aircraft was located meant that he had to do a considerably long winch from 175 feet, which in itself presented a real challenge. “Fortunately our hours of training and our role-specific rescue equipment meant we were more than equipped to deal with a difficult situation such as the rescue of Alan and Anne that day.”
“They were standing next to the plane, so as we flew over we saw them walking about – from that point on, we were optimistic that things would go well.
“We winched paramedic Roger Blume down the line to the Warners and he assessed them before putting the harnesses on and winching them into the aircraft.
“Both were coherent and talking, and clearly a bit shaken, because they’d obviously spent a night out in not very nice conditions. But it could have been a lot worse,” says Mike.
Alan suffered moderate chest injuries and Anne later required spinal surgery for back injuries sustained in the light plane crash. We’re pleased to report she was up and walking within a week of her operation.
Son Adam said the family were ecstatic at the outcome, and very grateful to the rescue personnel involved in getting their parents out.