A Canterbury motorcyclist is lucky to be alive tonight after he was hit by a truck and then survived 40 minutes in an icy and flooded river before a daring helicopter rescue.
A willow tree was the only thing that stopped the man being swept to his death in the Waimakariri River, just north of Christchurch.
Volunteer firefighter Murray Burgess shot eyewitness video as drama unfolded on the flooded Waimakariri River. Clinging to a willow tree for dear life, the 47-year-old motorcyclist ended up there after a truck veered across a bridge and hit his motorcycle. He fell 6m off the bridge and into the river.
Rod Partington was the paramedic winched down for the rescue.
"There's a lot of spray, a lot of water," says Mr Partington. "You can't really see much. You really hear a lot. I was just screaming at him to allow him to get the belt on."
Rescue pilot Stuart Farquhar was hovering above.
"I haven't seen the Waimak' River for a very long time," says Mr Farquhar. "It was as much in flood as I've seen it for years."
Passersby had thrown a rope to the man, who was on the upstream side of the tree and pressed against it by the current.
"We were trying to yell out to him 'helicopter's on the way'," says witness Malcolm Linton. "In his situation he was probably thinking 'yeah right'."
Mr Partington felt the cold through his wetsuit and battled against the current to attach the rescue belt.
Local police officer Constable Lisa Walker says the man was fortunate.
"He certainly was lucky," says Ms Walker. "He had some good leather gear, which may have helped him in the water, but he's suffering minor injuries and is hypothermic."
But the man was hoisted from the river along with Mr Partington after about 40 minutes in the river. He collapsed on the floor of the helicopter when finally winched aboard.
Amazingly at a nearby landing spot, the man walked in his wet leathers from the helicopter to a waiting ambulance.
"He needs to get a Lotto ticket because essentially he's had a vehicle accident and didn't get injured from that, a reasonable fall of 6m into the water, didn't get injured from that, then he's managed to get the one and only small twiggy branch that's sticking out of the water," says Mr Partington. "If he hadn't got that it's a long way down the river."
Instead all he has is a few minor injuries and, one day, a good story to tell.
source: newshub archive