Crewman Carl Babe says personal locator beacons are a must for those heading into the country. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Beacons save lives, says chopper crew


The Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter crew have a message – personal locator beacons (PLBs) work.

The trust which runs the service flew 430 missions in 2018, with rescues ranging from severe workplace accidents, heart attacks and car accidents, to locating people lost in the bush.

For example, Elad Yarmut was hiking in the Richmond Hills with two friends in late December when a tent in the riverbed caught his eye. He shouted out “are you ok?”

Kylor Hall popped out and said: “Actually no, do you have a PLB?”

Kylor had been hiking when he slipped and dislocated his ankle.

With no means of communication and being immobile, he was forced to wait in the river bed hoping help would arrive. Luckily, four hours later, Elad and his friends stumbled upon him and activated their own locator beacon.

When a locator beacon is activated, as well as raising the alarm for emergency services, it also raises an alarm for the family of the person to whom it belongs.

Helicopter crewman Carl Babe says that call was a perfect example of why carrying a PLB could be the difference between life and death.

“A situation where no one else is around, the weather deteriorates, you run out of food … a PLB is the difference.

Carl says at least half of flights they do are medical transfers or urgent medical work, which is the stuff that nobody hears about.

“There’s a lot of feel good stories out there where we get people safely out of the bush and get them home, it’s not all gorey.”

The helicopter trust sells PLBs as a fundraiser and Carl says for an extra 200 grams of weight in your bag or $500 to save your life it should be an easy choice to make.