A very special Christmas for the Byrne family

After a medical incident at the wheel, the Byrne family just avoided two head on collisions and their car left the road, rolling six times across a paddock. By some miracle they were alive and their fate was now in the hands of the Rescue Helicopter and New Zealand Flying Doctors.

It was an exciting day for the Byrne family, parents Steven and Dianne had driven up the day before from Christchurch to Blenheim so that their 13 year old son Evan could take part in the Marlborough Gymnastics competition. Grace, aged seven, was looking forward to seeing her brother compete knowing he hoped to qualify for the nationals.

As Dianne recalls, “We were just driving along then I heard a strange noise and looked, Steven had gone rigid – it looked like he was having a seizure at the wheel and his foot was jammed on the accelerator and at the same time the car started to weave”.

Instinct kicked in and Dianne grabbed the steering wheel and they narrowly missed two head on collisions. The car ‘flew over’ a culvert and ricocheted out of control, rolling six or seven times across a paddock.

A lucky escape

The first police at the scene said, looking at the car, that they expected the very worst, thinking no-one could have survived. Kath, the Intensive Care Paramedic who was on duty that day and recalls the scene. With the impact and force of the vehicle rolling in this way at over 100 kms per hour we knew there would be major trauma; thankfully they all had their seatbelts on at the time of impact and the airbags deployed.

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Grace was in critical condition with a fractured skull – she was taken by the local Rescue Helicopter to Wellington and then on to Starship once she had stabilised. Steven was taken by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to Wellington hospital suffering from brain bleeds. Dianne had a broken wrist and suspected fracture of her spine, she and Evan were taken to the local hospital. The family later had multiple transfers in the New Zealand Flying Doctors planes. The Rescue Helicopter crew work together closely with the New Zealand Flying Doctor crew – in this case both worked seamlessly together to help the Byrne family.