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Chaos unleashed at Cooks Beach.

Contribution from Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

In the 20-plus-years that Chrissy Pinel has enjoyed the tranquillity of Cooks Beach, she never imagined she would have need of the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter service.

That was all to change during the Easter holidays.

“The thought of not needing the service is often expressed by our patients,” says Shaan Hulena, General Manager of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

Whether suffering a medical event or accident, Shaan says the charity and essential service is one that anyone in the community may need anywhere and at any time.

“Unfortunately, this is what keeps the service busy all hours of the day and night throughout the year.”

Whether at her Cooks Beach bach or at home in Whangaparaoa Chrissy, a kindergarten teacher, loves being near the water.

“The beach is a lovely place that brings family together,” she says.

On the Saturday afternoon of Chrissy’s accident, she was in the shallows at the Purangi Reserve end, digging for tuatua while her husband Russell and son Ed were further out.

The mother and grandmother had spotted two large dogs off-lead. She thought little of it at the time and holds no ill-feeling towards the animals concerning what happened next.

In the midst of enjoying their freedom, Chrissy heard the voice of their owner recalling them. As the larger dog turned to leave, it slammed full force into Chrissy’s leg sending her tumbling backwards into the water.

A little dazed, the canine would be OK. Chrissy, on the other hand, was struggling to get up.

Chrissy then had to be carried off the beach by her son and the dog's owner while Russell went to fetch the car. Unbeknown to Chrissy, her leg had actually broken in two places.

“I thought ‘she’ll be right’,” Chrissy says, “I was more concerned about the dog. The owner explained it was a covid-rescue dog from the bush.”

Back at the bach, Chrissy realised that, after half an hour under ice, her leg wasn’t getting any better. The family called for help.

“Once ambulance crew arrived, they said they would ‘put in a quick call’ themselves.”

“I heard the siren go off signalling the fire service to rally and clear the beach reserve opposite the station for the incoming rescue helicopter,” Chrissy says, “I thought, ‘Oh no, someone else has got into trouble too.’”

Chrissy wasn’t expecting a knock on the door from the Fire Chief and to be stretchered out.

She is very grateful for the crew of Auckland’s Westpac 1 that day.

“They were absolutely fabulous,” Chrissy says, “With the pain I was in, I certainly would not have wanted to go to hospital over the winding hills with the condition of the roads at present. For all the bad fortune, it was good fortune they came.”

Ed flew with his mother to North Shore Hospital while Russell was advised not to travel by road that evening as several accidents had slowed traffic down. At the time this story goes to print, Chrissy is hoping to be free of her cast and enjoying her beloved beach walks again.

The Shelby 2023 Lottery is on now. To support the work of the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter and be in to win the last ever Shelby GT-Heritage built in the world, visit” There will be an insert in next week's paper.


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