our rescue heroes

We're fast, we're always ready –

and we go anywhere. That's why they call us.

Highly trained and totally dedicated, our primary crew is composed of an experienced pilot and one advanced paramedic rescue crewman, with support from ICU doctors at Dunedin Hospital and the St John Ambulance advanced paramedic crew.

On standby for difficult missions are a range of support teams including specially trained Water Rescue and Cliff Rescue squads.


Graeme Gale – Chief Pilot

Chief Pilot Graeme Gale has over 20years experience as a helicopter pilot. He is also Managing Director of Helicopters OtagoOperating from his Mosgiel Base on Taieri Airfield, Graeme is Chief Pilot of the BK117 Rescue Helicopter and Managing Director of Helicopters Otago Ltd. Flying commercially since 1992 in commercial and agricultural operations, Graeme established the Rescue Helicopter Service in Otago in 1994. As Chief Pilot of the Bell 206 Jet Ranger 'Speights Rescue Helicopter' he was intimately involved in developing the Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust, which now operates the rescue service.

Grant Withers

Experienced helicopter pilot Grant Withers has flown with several helicopter rescue trusts throughout New Zealand as well as 13 years with The Royal New Zealand Air forceGrant joined the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter in 2012. After completing 13 years with the RNZAF in 1999, Grant moved to the NZ helicopter EMS industry, flying with a variety of commercial operations throughout New Zealand and the South Pacific, as well as rescue helicopter trusts based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Clayton Girven

Clayton has experience in charter and commercial helicopter flying as well as flying with other Helicopter trusts in New Zealand Clayton joined the Otago Rescue Helicopter in July 2011. Awarded his commercial licence in 2001, Clayton started out in charter and general commercial work, then graduated to flying helicopters from tuna boats in the South Pacific. After two tours flying off Taiwanese pursuiners, he joined an Austrailian company that specialised in precision power line work. Later Clayton moved back to NZ, where he joined the Philips Search and Rescue Trust, flying from bases in Palmerston North and Taupo, prior to joining the Otago team.

David Gale

David looks after the Agricultural side of Helicopters Otago as well as piloting the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter Dave obtained his commercial helicopter licence in 2001. As manager/pilot for the agricultural side of the family business of Helicopters Otago Ltd, Dave assists with the piloting of the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter.



Providing critical pre-hospital care, paramedic crewmen are trained in advanced emergency care and trauma scene management. Winch operation is also a critical part of the role and involves working closely with the pilot and medical or rescue personnel. To permit immediate emergency response, Doug and Ian are permanently assigned to the Rescue Base.

Doug Flett – Crew Chief

Doug is the Crew Chief for the Otago Regional Rescue Helicopter having been with them since it's inception in 1994. Joining the Rescue Helicopter Service at its inception in February 1994, Doug is an experienced paramedic crewman and winch operator. A St John Ambulance Service volunteer officer in Milton since 1983, Doug became part of St John's permanent Dunedin staff in 1985, undertaking fulltime duties as a helicopter crewman and flight paramedic in 2000.

Ian Ridley

Ian joined the team in 1998 and brings invaluable skills to the marine/off shore rescue operations Ian joined the St John Ambulance Service in 1983, as a Volunteer Ambulance Officer in Oamaru, undertaking fulltime duties in 1989. Moving Dunedin in 1997, Ian has been a paramedic crewman with the Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust since they first began operations with the BK117 in 1998. Ian's nautical expertise brings invaluable skills to the marine/off shore rescue operations.


The crewing of the helicopter is also supported by a group of St John paramedics who spend part of their duty time working on the helicopter and the rest of the time on the road ambulances around the city stations.

  • Annabel Taylor

    Annabel Taylor

  • Craig Didham

    Craig Didham

  • Peter Walker

    Peter Walker

  • Shayne Henry

    Shayne Henry

  • Gavin Weastell

    Gavin Weastell

  • Anthony Hoets

    Anthony Hoets

  • Andrew Duncan

    Andrew Duncan

  • Andrew McLellan

    Andrew McLellan

  • Anna Scott

    Anna Scott