Rats.co.nzSpecialist First Response Team to the Canterbury Region


Coastguard Exercise in Lyttelton


On Saturday 16th of June the Coastguard organised an exercise which incorporated most of the South Island Coastguard groups, the Police, St Johns Ambulance, Fire Service, Civil Defence, The Salvation Army, Westpac Helicoptor and search planes.

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Although the exercise officially begun at 4.00am in the morning the RATS were spared this early morning call and were briefed to be ready at the Lyttelton Coastguard HQ by the reasonable hour of 10.00am. The weather was cool with scattered showers.

Coastguard Exercise June 2007
Coastguard Exercise June 2007
We received our tasking at 10.45am which was go to a "stricken" boat called the "Albatross" which was now without power to rescue an unknown number of people on board. The boat was approx 4km out of the harbour, we were transported to the site by a coastguard inflatable and the "Kaikoura" which is a Kaikoura's new Coastguard lifeboat.

On landing on the "Albatross" we were informed that 6 patients had been found throughout the boat with various injuries:

Pt 1 - Male down in a hold at the stern who is unconscious and probably electrocuted.

Pt 2 - Male on the main deck towards the bow with fracture & burns to lower arm.

Pt 3 - Female at bottom of stairs to lower deck with spinal injuries.

Pt 4 - Female on main deck with nausea & vomiting.

Pt 5 - Female on main deck with concussion.

Pt 6 - Male on bow of main deck with fractured Tib/Fib.

We evacuated Pt's 4 & 5 immediately to the inflatable that brought us out, leaving us with the more difficult to extricate pt's to prioritise and rescue.

The Sumner Lifeboat was alongside the Albatross moving her slowly beyond the heads of Port Levy. It became clear that the Lifeboat would have to begin towing from the front to keep the boats stable so our initial priority was to clear the front deck. The risk of the tow line snapping made working on the bow too dangerous.

Pt 6 was therefore our first priority to be splinted and carried back to the CCP on a basket stretcher out of harms way. 

Pt 1 was assessed, still unconscious but with pulse and breathing. He was hauled out of the hold onto a basket stretcher and evacuated on another inflatable. For the extrication we used our SKED stretchers which are very plyable and slippery so we positioned the patient beneath the hatch and once there it was down to brute force to haul him out of the hold.

Coastguard Exercise June 2007
Coastguard Exercise June 2007
Pt 3 was confirmed as a spinal with neck pain and no sensation or movement below pelvis, she was collared and slid onto a SKED stretcher before being hauled up the stairs. Pt 2 was her husband who did not want to leave his wife so once she was extracted he walked over to the CCP shortly after.

All pt's were monitored at the CCP while the "Albatross" was towed back towards harbour.

On board we also had an Advanced Paramedic and Ambulance officer from St John who were able to assist with treatment, triage and pain relief.

Pt 1 was determined as critical "status one" and as there was no helicopter evacuation available we decided to transfer himn enroute to a small inflatable coastguard vessel. The vessel tied up alongside and we transferred the patient in the basket stretcher to the inflatable while travelling along at a steady 4-5 knots. The transfer was smooth but certainly focused the mind when transferring at the heads of the Lyttelton harbour. Fortunately our patient kept his eyes closed.

A recce was performed to make sure that all the patients had actually been found which produced Pt 7 down a hold in the bow.  He was unconscious due to a head injury and was positioned in a very tight place, so tight an improvised collar was made with a towel as proved too difficult to apply the collar. He was then hauled out vertically using a single line with plenty of padding under his arms, onto an Evac stretcher. Due to the safety issues of the tow rope he had to be quickly evacuated to the CCP. There he was collared and monitored with the rest of the pt's until we docked at the Lyttelton docks about 30 minutes later.
Coastguard Exercise June 2007
Coastguard Exercise June 2007
All pt's had to be stretchered off the boat as there was a metre gap between boat and dock. We didn't lose any pt's overboard but Helen almost had a nasty meeting with the waters of Lyttelton harbour!

The event took about two and half hours with the actual rescue element taking about an hour and half (inlcuding the last patient). Everything ran very smoothly with excellent teamwork between all the agencies involved. It was great to be invited by the Coastguard to participate and we are hopeful of future exercises with them. 

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Updated Wednesday, 22 December 2010