Mr Tim Barrow, NZBD, for an act of exceptional bravery in a situation of danger
Tim Barrow, director and chief helicopter pilot of Rotorua-based scenic flight company Volcanic Air, became aware of the eruption at 2.20pm and noted that one of his pilots had been on the island with a Volcanic Air helicopter tour at the time. Mr Barrow and Mr Graeme Hopcroft lifted off from Rotorua at 3.05pm and contacted the pilot of a fixed wing aircraft operating in the area, who was relaying messages from Mr Mark Law of aerial support helicopter company Kāhu NZ from the crater of the island, providing an idea of what to expect when they arrived. Mr Barrow observed his pilot’s irreparably damaged Volcanic Air helicopter as he arrived at the island. The Kāhu NZ crew had already begun loading casualties into their helicopters. Barrow and Hopcroft touched down and made their way through the ash to assist. With acidic air a present issue for the helicopter engines, the pilots left their engines on and rotors turning once landed to improve their chances of taking off again. The casualties were covered in thick ash, had extensive burns and were in various stages of consciousness. Ash fell on the men as they moved about and the acidic air made breathing difficult. Barrow and Hopcroft carried a man on their shoulders back to their helicopter, before returning to help casualties onto Mr Law’s helicopter. Mr Law then took off with five casualties, flying to Whakatāne Hospital. Mr Sam Jones and Mr Callum Mill arrived on another Volcanic Air helicopter. Mr Barrow, who had one casualty onboard, repositioned his helicopter for one of the Kāhu NZ crew, Mr Hopcroft and Mr Mill to load one further injured person onboard. Mr Barrow and Mr Hopcroft then took off to Whakatāne with the two casualties.