St John glitch delayed emergency call


A computer glitch delayed an emergency call after a skydive accident in Queenstown, St John admits.

The ambulance service has taken flak about delays in attending the incident on September 27 and answered tough questions about why one of the adventure tourism company’s staff got behind the wheel of an ambulance.

The accident left a skydiving cameraman in hospital with serious head and chest injuries, and broken arms.

It can now be revealed St John’s Auckland emergency control centre suffered a “technology issue” on the day of the accident.

The glitch was mentioned in emails requested under the Official Information Act from Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

In response to Mountain Scene’s questions, St John’s South Island spin doctor Ian Henderson confirms the skydive accident emergency call was delayed.

“I understand the technical issue meant there was a delay of around four minutes.”

He says the glitch is a “one-off”, adding: “However, I would like to emphasise that this technical issue and also our ambulance resources being committed to other incidents was very unusual.”

A server disc on St John’s computer-aided dispatch system has since been replaced.

Henderson: “As an emergency operator St John has several back-up contingencies so while there were some delays, these incidents continued to be managed effectively with no adverse outcomes.”

NZONE Skydive’s marketing man Derek Melnick says: “It took an extended period of time for somebody to get out here and attend to the guy.”

He says any additional resources to boost St John would be well received.

The skydive accident call was received at 1.35pm on September 27 – when one ambulance was taking a patient to Lakes District Hospital and the other was heading to The Remarkables ski area.

Once the patient was dropped off at hospital, the ambulance was assigned the skydive job - at 1.48pm.

It arrived at the scene at 2.01pm. The cameraman was taken to Lakes and then choppered to Dunedin.

Civil Aviation Authority mouthpiece Mike Eng says its investigation is ongoing - “we are still interviewing witnesses”.

Melnick says the injured cameraman is out of hospital and in a rehabilitation centre.

“He’s up on his feet and making a good recovery and is expected to be back home in a couple of weeks.”

Dunne said last month the ambulance service provided by St John is appropriate.