Tuesday, 19 January 2021


A rescue helicopter reunion in Coroglen

By Jordan Gower

Late last month, Mark Finnerty and crew members of the Auckland and Coromandel Westpac Rescue Helicopters shared a cup of tea and talked about an incident that took place in early March this year.

Mark works on a farm in Cooks Beach, but lives in Coroglen. On Sunday 4 March, he was out shifting some stock, when he had an accident and was thrown off his quad bike. “I wasn’t trapped under the bike, so I got up and tried to roll the bike upright, but I just had no strength at all,” Mark said. “So I started walking and I called my wife to apologise.”

Mark and his wife were meant to be going on holiday to Port Jackson the following day, but Mark knew his injuries were going to hinder that and offering an apology, he thought, was the appropriate thing to do.

Mark was initially trying to just “walk his injuries off” on his way to get assistance, but that wasn’t a great idea. “I realised pretty soon that I shouldn’t have been walking, so I called the owners of the farm I was working on and they collected me and took me back home,” said Mark.

Once he was home, Mark’s wife called the St John ambulance and they arrived within 45 minutes. The ambulance officers decided to call the rescue helicopter as, according to their assessment, Mark was in need of urgent hospital care. Westpac 1, based in Whitianga, was in the area after attending a call in Cooks Beach and arrived at Mark’s house in six minutes.

Russell Clarke was the intensive care paramedic on the helicopter that day. “I prepped Mark for the flight and then we took off,” Russell said. “We had to fly low to avoid some of Mark’s injuries worsening.”

Mark was indeed in a bad state with a punctured lung, whiplash, a broken collarbone and approximately seven broken ribs. Thanks to Russell and the helicopter crew, Mark was at Waikato Hospital in around 30 minutes.

Fast forward about six months and Mark is back in the same condition he was before the accident. “I still suffer from bad back pain, but that was from an injury before the accident,” said Mark.

Rescue helicopter crews and their patients are always grateful for the opportunity to reconnect. “It’s incredible to see Mark doing so well now,” Russell said. “It’s very rare that we get to see patients after their accidents and we never know if they’re going to make a full recovery or not. So to be able to sit with Mark now and know he’s OK is just great.”

The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, the operator of the rescue helicopter based in Whitianga, holds an event in Auckland every now and then where patients and their friends and family can meet the rescue helicopter crews. “It’s always a great event, but it’s mostly people from Auckland who attend as it’s a long way to travel for people who live on the Coromandel Peninsula,” said Lincoln Davies, Communications Manager of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust. “So to be able to come into the community here on the Coromandel and see people like Mark again is a wonderful reunion for everyone involved.”

Mark and his wife haven’t yet taken their planned holiday to Port Jackson, but given Mark’s full recovery, it might not be far away now.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.