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Kiwi rescuers
2013/09/02 11:22

The 68-year-old Victorian man died at Mansfield, northeast of Melbourne, on Saturday night after plunging about 30 metres as an air ambulance crew attempted to winch him aboard their helicopter to treat his broken ankle. He was understood to have weighed more than 100 kilograms.

Australia's transport safety agency has launched an investigation into the Ambulance Victoria incident, including equipment checks and interviews and drug tests with paramedics involved.

Peter Turnbull, chairman of the New Zealand's Aviation Industry Association's emergency medical services division, said Kiwi operators would be watching the investigation with "keen interest".

"We won't be changing anything up front but we'll be very interested to see what conclusions the investigators come to, as we're always looking to improve what we do and how we do it," Mr Turnbull told NZ Newswire.

However, he had confidence in the country's strict regulations around all winching activities.

"Winching is one of those things we do that has risk attached and is only used as a last resort, off boats, cliffs, all those hard-to-reach places," said Mr Turnbull, a pilot with Northland Emergency Services Trust.

"It's highly regulated. The training budget for winching far outweighs everything else, considering how often it's used ... but you have to make sure you get it right."

His organisation carries out 20 operational winches a year, using trained a trained winch specialist who operates the equipment and carries out the physical rescue.

New Zealand hasn't had a winching fatality since 1990, when two people died after equipment malfunctioned during a training exercise in Taranaki, he said.
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