Extensive rescue operation under way in New Zealand cave

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Cave system too risky for amateurs, says rescuer

Postby Wayne Harrison » Aug 29, 2007 2:49 pm

By KIRAN CHUG and FAIRFAX
The Nelson Mail | Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Inexperienced cavers have been warned off attempting the dangerous Middle Earth system in the aftermath of the dramatic rescue of Motueka doctor Michael Brewer.

Search and Rescue coordinator Sherp Tucker said he was worried that adventurers without the skills to navigate the complex caving system under Takaka Hill would "want to have a go", putting themselves at risk.

About 50 experienced cavers spent 2&fracd12 days assisting in one of the most technically challenging rescue missions attempted in New Zealand, after Dr Brewer fractured his pelvis 400m underground.

Dr Brewer, a caver with more than 20 years' experience, had spent Saturday mapping a section of the caves when he was hit by a falling rock.

This morning he was in a comfortable condition in Nelson Hospital after getting a good night's sleep.

<a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/nelsonmail/4182860a6007.html">via The Nelson Mail</a>
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Postby pete_the_caver » Aug 29, 2007 5:30 pm

you don't have to pay to be rescued in NZ. New Zealand has a no faults accident law that is unique in the world. Basically it means all your rescue, medical and rehabilitation costs are paid by a government insurance scheme called the Accident Compensation Commission. This is paid for through employer levies and partly by car taxation and various other taxes.

The scheme was brought in following a referendum in the 1970s and at the same time people lost the right to sue for injury. It even covers loss of earnings (up to 80% I think). However you can only claim loss of earnings if you are working in NZ at the time of the accident. So here's the crunch... If you are a visitor to NZ and not working and have a serious accident that leaves you without an income you can't litigate for compensation.

This law has made NZ an adventure paradise but has left a few visitors in a very poor financial situation due to accident. What no one has realised that due to NZ's unique laws visitors should obtain travel insurance that covers permanent loss of income due to injury but as far as I'm aware this does not exist.

As for the Greenlink-Middle Earth cave system.... It's a fabulous trip with a depth potential of approx 900m waiting to be discovered when it is pushed through to the Riwaka Resurgence

P.

ps please excuse my British spelling and not having scaned any of my Greenlink slides to submit
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Postby NZcaver » Aug 29, 2007 6:25 pm

pete_the_caver wrote:ps please excuse my British spelling and not having scaned any of my Greenlink slides to submit

Let us know when you scan and post those Greenlink slides, I'd love to see 'em... :grin:
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Postby paul » Aug 30, 2007 7:12 am

pete_the_caver wrote:ps please excuse my British spelling


Certainly! :-)
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Postby Colin NZ » Aug 30, 2007 7:44 pm

NZcaver wrote:
Scott McCrea wrote:The CNN video includes much of the same footage as the other links, but may offer a better chance for us to speculate on his gear. Especially, his lights. Is that a Sten? And what are the two round lights underneath?

Yeah, I noticed that Stenlight as well. The 2 below look like a pair of small reflector housings for halogen or LED lamps - maybe something home-made or modified perhaps? I'm guessing he didn't run out of light in those 3 days!

The helmet he is wearing is not his
Dave's lighting system was not working very well so he swapped with the patient
I believe it is a Sten ight and a pair of 3W LEDs in a home made (at the university engineering department) housing
I can get more details if anyone really needs to know
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Postby Colin NZ » Aug 30, 2007 7:45 pm

NZcaver wrote:
Scott McCrea wrote:The CNN video includes much of the same footage as the other links, but may offer a better chance for us to speculate on his gear. Especially, his lights. Is that a Sten? And what are the two round lights underneath?

Yeah, I noticed that Stenlight as well. The 2 below look like a pair of small reflector housings for halogen or LED lamps - maybe something home-made or modified perhaps? I'm guessing he didn't run out of light in those 3 days!

The helmet he is wearing is not his
Dave's lighting system was not working very well so he swapped with the patient
I believe it is a Sten ight and a pair of 3W LEDs in a home made (at the university engineering department) housing
I can get more details if anyone really needs to know
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Postby Colin NZ » Aug 30, 2007 7:51 pm

NZcaver wrote:Another great video clip just released by TVNZ:

Rescued caver can't remember accident - a 4 minute clip including some in cave footage of Dr Brewer in a Ferno litter.

Sounds like it was a pretty slick operation, from all accounts... :woohoo:

It did go quite well
The patient is actually inside 2 stretchers at that time
We had him in an Aspiring rescue wrap which is a purpose built cave rescue stretcher (used to be made in NZ but no longer made) for the smaller passage part of the cave then just put that inside the Furno for the larger passgae to protect the patient. The rescue wrap is not as rigid as the Furno so you have to be a bit more careful re sliding the stretcher and where you put it down
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Postby Colin NZ » Aug 30, 2007 7:51 pm

NZcaver wrote:Another great video clip just released by TVNZ:

Rescued caver can't remember accident - a 4 minute clip including some in cave footage of Dr Brewer in a Ferno litter.

Sounds like it was a pretty slick operation, from all accounts... :woohoo:

It did go quite well
The patient is actually inside 2 stretchers at that time
We had him in an Aspiring rescue wrap which is a purpose built cave rescue stretcher (used to be made in NZ but no longer made) for the smaller passage part of the cave then just put that inside the Furno for the larger passgae to protect the patient. The rescue wrap is not as rigid as the Furno so you have to be a bit more careful re sliding the stretcher and where you put it down
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Postby NZcaver » Aug 30, 2007 11:30 pm

Hi Colin,

Welcome to the NSS discussion board! :waving: Are you Colin from ASG, by any chance?

Well done on the rescue. Dumping the whole Rescue Wrap straight into a Ferno to negotiate bigger passage/vertical etc certainly makes sense. The same idea is used in the US, but with a SKED (think stiff plastic "burrito") and OSS spine splint substituting for the Rescue Wrap.

Do you know what the delay was with getting him up the final 40m entrance pit? Something about loose rock? Were most of the drops rigged for mechanical advantage haul, or were rescuers used to counterbalance, or both? How did the communications work out - you were using Michie phones, right?

Do you know if there is (or will be) a complete accident report published on this? :question: A few of us might be interested in seeing that...
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Postby Colin NZ » Aug 30, 2007 11:47 pm

NZcaver wrote:Hi Colin,

Welcome to the NSS discussion board! :waving: Are you Colin from ASG, by any chance?

Do you know what the delay was with getting him up the final 40m entrance pit? Something about loose rock? Were most of the drops rigged for mechanical advantage haul, or were rescuers used to counterbalance, or both? How did the communications work out - you were using Michie phones, right?

Do you know if there is (or will be) a complete accident report published on this? :question: A few of us might be interested in seeing that...

I am not Colin from ASG - and by the way he is now in Nelson
There was no delay getting up the entrance pitch as far as I am concerned and I ran that pitch.
The times from the management team reports need to be taken with a grain of salt
The 2 hours quoted for the main pitch included the time to bring about 6 people up the pitch before the stretcher, the time to drop the main + belay down the pitch, send someone down to actually get the belay rope to the bottom (it got hung up), connect the stretcher, bring it up, get the stretcher away from the pitch head which was very drafty and get it on its way up the cave, and then I remebered to tell the surface we had done it.
There was no loose rock on the pitch - they only thing that fell down the pitch during the haul was a radio (off the stretcher).
Mechanical advantage was use on all the main pitches I believe - we did a 1:1 haul up on 4m section. No couter weights that I know of.
Michie phone comms - considering aplying for funding for a pair of Nicola phones for the first party into the cave. Michie phones went fine. Wire even survived the cave modification
I suppose I should organise a full report - At this stage I still need to find time to clean my gear.
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Postby Colin NZ » Aug 30, 2007 11:49 pm

Mike is now out of hospital
At home
On crutches - can't weight bear on his left leg
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Postby NZcaver » Aug 31, 2007 1:27 pm

Colin NZ wrote:I am not Colin from ASG - and by the way he is now in Nelson

Oops. :oops: Sorry, guess that was like falling into the old trap... "you're from NZ, you must know Colin..." :laughing:

There was no delay getting up the entrance pitch as far as I am concerned and I ran that pitch.
The times from the management team reports need to be taken with a grain of salt
The 2 hours quoted for the main pitch included the time to bring about 6 people up the pitch before the stretcher, the time to drop the main + belay down the pitch, send someone down to actually get the belay rope to the bottom (it got hung up), connect the stretcher, bring it up, get the stretcher away from the pitch head which was very drafty and get it on its way up the cave, and then I remebered to tell the surface we had done it.
There was no loose rock on the pitch - they only thing that fell down the pitch during the haul was a radio (off the stretcher).

Thanks for clearing that up. It all sounds like situation normal to me. Obviously that rescue, like virtually all others, was not immune to a little miscommunication from management! And I'm sure the media reports, though they looked pretty good, had some imperfections here and there too...

Michie phone comms - considering aplying for funding for a pair of Nicola phones for the first party into the cave. Michie phones went fine. Wire even survived the cave modification

That might not be a bad idea. I've played with various wireless communication systems in caves over here, and the effectiveness largely depends on the level of ground conductivity. If you can, I suggest you try to borrow some Nicola sets and test them in caves around the area before committing to buy.

I suppose I should organise a full report - At this stage I still need to find time to clean my gear.

Just dump it in the bath for a while. :wink: Thanks for all the good info, and again - good job.
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Step-by-step recovery for NZ caver as he returns home

Postby Wayne Harrison » Sep 1, 2007 4:28 pm

By KIRAN CHUG - The Nelson Mail | Saturday, 1 September 2007

Injured caver Michael Brewer might have to rely on crutches to get around for the next six weeks, but at least he is at home.

Dr Brewer, who has a broken pelvis, was sent home to Riwaka from Nelson Hospital on Thursday, just days after his dramatic rescue from the Middle Earth caves under Takaka Hill.

The painstaking rescue mission saw 68 people venture up to 400m underground to help carry Dr Brewer through narrow crevices and dangerous rockfalls.

He said he was still very sore, but able to walk "very slowly" on his crutches - providing he put very little weight on his left leg.

Before leaving hospital, Dr Brewer was made to pass a "step test", after describing the entrance to his house to occupational therapists.

He was "overwhelmed" by the number of wellwishers who had contacted him from as far away as America and Britain.

<a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/nelsonmail/4186794a6007.html">via suff.co.nz</a>
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Surface Tension

Postby Colin NZ » Sep 2, 2007 12:31 am

Nelson Mail > Features > Weekend > Story Surface Tension The Nelson Mail | Saturday, 1 September 2007

The subterranean limestone maze beneath Takaka Hill was the scene this week of the toughest cave rescue mission ever attempted in New Zealand. Kiran Chug delves behind the success of Operation Brewer.
In the damp, dark depths of the Middle Earth caves under Takaka Hill, Bruce Mutton heard the loud scraping of rock on rock then the piercing yells of his caving partner.

He wanted to turn around and walk away. They were 400m underground, four hours into a confusing caving system, and Mutton had just heard the sound of his companion, Motueka doctor Michael Brewer, being struck by a falling rock.

New Zealand's most difficult cave rescue operation was about to begin.
Nearly six hours later, assistant search and rescue coordinator Sherp Tucker received a phone call. As he listened calmly, his mind clicked into planning mode. This was going to be a big one. He went straight to the Nelson search and rescue office and launched Operation Brewer.
He called in search and rescue staff, alerted those who would need to come in and take over on Sunday morning, and started calling cavers from around the country.

<a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/nelsonmail/4186789a19260.html">Full Story</a>
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Postby NZcaver » Sep 2, 2007 1:30 pm

Good article there Colin, thanks!

Is that info pretty accurate, in your opinion?

This bit was interesting:

After building a little rock wall, and putting down bedrolls and blankets for Brewer to lie on, Mutton and McElwain went for help. It had been two hours since the accident, but Mutton says he had not even considered leaving the cave until then.

So they carried blankets and bedrolls down with them on a survey trip that wasn't supposed to be an overnight? Or was there a rescue cache in the cave somewhere? Either way, damn good thing considering it would be 27 hours(!) before he was in a stretcher and moving.

Love the bit about Oz winning the time sweepstake!
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