Mere metres from disaster

On 17th October last year, kite buggy enthusiast Joseph Terpend took to his local Matarangi beach to enjoy the hobby he’s loved for over 15 years. The day, however, proved to be far from plain sailing.

“There was nothing particularly out of the ordinary,” Joseph recalls, “The wind was up but not too bad. The only thing different was erosion had formed a steep bank at the west end of the beach.”  

It was here that Joseph and his home-built buggy ran into trouble.

“Unexpected turbulence caused the kite to drop, then the wind suddenly caught it again. I was just on the wrong angle. That’s what lifted my cart and I up into the air.”

As Joseph hurtled towards the bank, he thought it looked more like a wall. Slamming hard against it, he, unfortunately, suffered a broken leg as well as a broken arm.

Joseph wasn’t out of the woods yet as some big trees were frighteningly close. At the mercy of the wind, he was dragged up and over the bank, travelling some forty metres before stopping - mere metres away from disaster striking again.

“It was a pretty scary experience.”

As Joseph lay on the ground in pain, he was grateful he wasn’t completely alone that day.

“One young man was on the beach kite surfing. He witnessed the whole event and got to me in no time. With my arm broken and the other pinned beneath me, it was with some awkwardness that I asked him to retrieve my phone from my pocket to get help. He was an absolute champion.”

That phone call, to 111, set off a chain of events that saw Matarangi’s first responders on scene in next to no time. When Joseph heard the familiar thuds of the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter’s rotors it was further music to his ears. Joseph describes crew as, “absolute professionals”.

“With the help of Fire, I was lifted by stretcher into the helicopter.”

While Joseph drifted in and out of consciousness, he remembers Pilot Norm MacDonald was all smiles and had “a bit of a chat”.

“And the flash new helicopter of course!” he adds.

Westpac 2 flew Joseph to Waikato Hospital, landing some 30 minutes after take-off. While his recovery has been slow, Joseph’s grateful to all who came to his aid that day.