Brit in tree fall hell

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A Brit’s in a Christchurch spinal unit after breaking his back in a Queenstown tree-climbing fall.

James Salter, 26, who’s lived in the resort for almost a year, fell near Queenstown Gardens on January 16.

Wezley Weale – who, along with Scot Ryan McGinnigle, has moved to Christchurch to support Salter – says his friend was climbing a beachfront tree to get a better view of the sunset.

“He jumped up to get the branch and missed,” Weale tells Mountain Scene.

“He landed like a handstand, from 13 or 14 feet [high].”

Weale says his friend’s wrist “was like a horror movie – his bone was popping through his skin”.

Salter quickly complained he couldn’t feel much below the neck.

Ambulance paramedics – who have been commended by a hospital doctor for protecting Salter’s spine – took him to Lakes District Hospital.

A specialist team then choppered from Christchurch to Queenstown to collect him.

There’s hope Salter will recover but doctors at Burwood Spinal Unit are unsure he’ll walk again.

The injured man’s mum has already arrived from the UK and his dad’s expected to fly in today.

St John Wakatipu station manager Craig Downing, an ambo for 27 years, calls Salter “a remarkable young man”.
It’s a tragic event for everyone concerned, Downing says.

“It’s one of those jobs that even in an ambulance career you don’t come across very often.

“I think generally speaking it affects everyone who’s involved in it – because we’re all reminded that in an instant life can change, in the most spectacular way.

“One minute you’re living life in the absolute extreme on the other side of the world, the next minute suddenly everything’s different.”

Employer Tradestaff says Salter’s worked for them since April – he had recently finished working on The Remarkables skifield’s new base building and was due to start a new job.

Senior consultant Claire Pickup says he did a great job for many clients but had travel plans.

True Line Builders director Jaden Melgren, of Arrowtown, says shocked workmates at The Remarkables building site have raised money for Salter.

He adds: “I was hoping that with him being a backpacker that maybe the backpacker community of Queenstown would reach into their pockets and give him a hand.”

Nick Hamlin, of Arrow International, the base building job’s project manager, says Salter had worked on a number of Arrow’s projects and was a really good worker.

“It’s pretty tragic, really.”

david@scene.co.nz