Corbin's brush with death

Corbin Hart knew he would lose his leg before it happened.  

He was checking a roading machine at work in Makarau on the morning of December 3rd, 2019. The only way to do this was by having the machine running and the rotor slowly turning.

All looked fine to Corbin, who was just 25 years of age at the time of his ordeal.  

He then noticed some stones on the side of the machine, which he brushed off with his foot without thinking anything of it. This was something he had done so many times before.  

“But then I slipped on the grass,” Corbin recalls, “which led to my right foot getting caught in the machine.”

Stuck, he knew there was nothing he could do but endure an agonising wait.  “I lost my right foot first… and then it started really hurting.” Sadly, he would lose his leg to the machine. With it completely off, Corbin lay on the ground wondering if he would die there. He was in a critical condition.

“For a few seconds I thought, ‘yeah, this is it’.”

“Then I was like, ‘no, hang on, I’ve still got things to do’. That’s when I found my phone and went into the whole ‘try-to-save-my-life mode’.”

With no time to lose, Corbin made a tourniquet out of the shirt he was wearing, while shouting for help to his colleague, who was several hundred metres away.  He called 111 and asked them to send a helicopter.  

“There was no way I could sit in an ambulance for an hour.”

Westpac 3 crew were tasked, which included Doctor Louise Park, Critical Care Paramedic Russell “Rusty” Clark, Pilot Simon Owen and Air Crew Officer Graham “Jonesy” Jones. Within five minutes, they were airborne and on their way to Corbin.  

Corbin remembers his relief seeing them arrive.  It took just 15 minutes to fly Corbin to Auckland City Hospital.  His memory of the flight is patchy but something significant stands out.

“I remember asking Dr Lou ‘am I going to die?’ and I just remember her shaking her head ‘no’. It was really cool to know that.”

Corbin says being rescued by the Westpac 3 crew sped up his recovery.  “There’s a doctor on board (as well as a Critical Care Paramedic) so you’re getting seen then and there, you don’t have to wait until you’re at hospital, which is quite special. You know you’re in safe hands.”

Undoubtedly his determination and resourcefulness aided his recovery too.  A few months after his accident, looking for a new way to keep fit, Corbin took up kayaking. In the back of his mind, he thought if he worked hard enough, he could really make something of it. So that’s exactly what he did. Within a year of picking up the sport, he represented New Zealand at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Next for Corbin is the World Cup and Paris 2024 qualifiers, and he’s engaged to be married at the end of the year to partner Liv.

Corbin says supporting the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopters is a “no brainer. You never know when you’re going to need them. I’m going to donate some money this year.”

“I don’t know how many times you can say thanks.”