INDEPENDENT NEWS

Three Decades Of Saving Lives Comes To An End For Founding Pilot

Published: Mon 15 Nov 2021 04:16 PM
Philips Search & Rescue Trust and the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter rescue crew has farewelled Grant Bremner, a familiar face to many and a foundation team member who has been there from the beginning.
Grant has been flying the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter since the inception in 1987, when he was approached to join newly formed rescue helicopter service Philips Search and Rescue Trust (PSRT), following a fatal air accident two years earlier in Turangi that claimed the lives of two Philips executives and their pilot.
When Grant was a young boy there was no doubt, he’d be a pilot one day. Grant’s love of flying is in his DNA, with his father a recreational pilot and his uncle a WW2 fighter pilot in RNZAF’s renown 486 squadron. The ambition to fly aircraft and enthusiasm to make a difference in the community just came naturally.
Grant joined PSRT at a unique time, there were no other local charity-based rescue helicopter services, and certainly none funded by the community. Grant was charged with setting up a base in Hamilton, today known as Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
Grant says although it was, at times, tough to raise the level of funding required to sustain and establish a maiden rescue helicopter operation, support from the community was abundant. The service relied predominantly on sponsorship and community support to fund the operations. At the time, Waikato Hospital didn’t have a helipad, so the rescue helicopter would land on the local nursing home’s tennis court greeted by Waikato Hospital’s medical crew. Grant was involved in campaigning to raise funds to build Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter’s hangar and helipad.
“Association with the region’s first and only rescue helicopter service appealed to most businesses, it was a highly visible community cause to support. Trustbank, who later became Westpac, came on board as foundation sponsor, and continues as principal sponsor today for the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter”.
Over his time on the job, Grant says his greatest challenge was establishing a rescue helicopter service. “Everything was completely new and foreign, we started from scratch on a blank canvas”.
Today, Philips Search & Rescue Trust fundraises for New Zealand’s largest rescue helicopter service.
Outside his long serving role with the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter, Grant is grandfather to two and usually enjoys spending time in Whangamata. When Grant is not in lockdown, as many in the Waikato are right now, he loves getting outdoors. Like many of the patients he has helped rescue over the years while enjoying their own recreational time; you would typically find Grant mountain biking, skiing, or on the water hunting for his next big catch.
Grant has played a crucial role in the development of this invaluable service, and without him and his efforts, your rescue helicopters would not be where they are today. The impact Grant has made on the community over the past 3 and a half decades is unforgettable, so we thank Grant for his incredible service and dedication to saving lives.

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