An emergency Mission Aviation Fellowship medivac flight in PNG has saved the life of a New Zealand man who was almost killed trying to protect his girlfriend from a sexual assault.

A MAF GA8 Airvan in Papua New Guinea has once again been instrumental in saving a life following a vicious attack in the country’s southwest.

A New Zealand man visiting the remote village of Suabi was attacked on June 19 as he tried to protect his girlfriend, a French anthropologist, from a sexual assault.

An emergency call was placed to the MAF base at Rumginae, about 100km to the west, where there is an airstrip and hospital. MAF suspended flights into Suabi as police prepared to investigate the incident.

Initial reports indicated the man had been stabbed, had lost a lot of blood and was having trouble breathing. This was an emergency requiring a swift response by skilled professionals using reliable eqiupment – including the GippsAero GA8 Airvan that made it possible to reach the badly injured man – as quickly as possible.

Sitting quietly on the grass apron alongside the airstrip when the alarm was raised was one of the MAF’s newly acquired Airvans. The sturdy, utilitarian eight-seat GippsAero Airvan is ideally suited for emergency medical evacuation missions.

Pilot Nick Swalm, normally based at Wewak but in Rumginae to fill in for a pilot family on leave, dropped what he was doing on that quiet Sunday afternoon and ran to the pre-flight the aircraft.

“I readied the aircraft as Dr Daniel Priest and Dr Sharon Brandon from Rumginae Hospital boarded with their medical equipment,” Swalm recounted. “On arrival at Suabi we found the young man had been speared in both lungs and in the stomach and beaten on the head with a rock.

“As the doctors assessed him and stabilised him for the flight, I provided the aircraft oxygen tank and pilot’s oxygen mask to help him breathe for the 50-minute flight.

“By God’s grace, there were doctors, surgeons, a pilot and a capable aircraft in the right place to save this young man’s life that day.”

Doctors commented on the evening of the attack that, had the aircraft arrived an hour or two later, the man most likely would have died.

The Mission Aviation Fellowship performed 495 medivac flights in PNG in 2010.

Read about the MAF’s 60 years of service in PNG.

This story was originally published in the September 2011 issue of Flightpaths, the monthly MAF newsletter.

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