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Rescue Map

An Auckland family say their son's escape from serious injury after a near 14m cliff fall

Name Dylan Holzheimer
Product Name ResQLink™ PLB
Date of Rescue 09/05/2016
Saved By Westpac Rescue Helicopter Trust
Beacon Purchased From Burnsco Marine and Leisure
Lives Saved 1

An Auckland family say their son's escape from serious injury after a near 14m cliff fall on to his back in a remote area of the Coromandel is nothing short of a miracle. Donald and Traci Holzheimer say they are now forever grateful to the emergency services teams who came to their aid after their son, Dylan, fell while crossing over a cliff face to another fishing spot with his father. Using the Res Q Link PLB the rescue services were quickly notified and arrived by helicopter within an hour from the accident.


Dylan and Donald Holzheimer - who are both avid fishermen - headed over to a friend's bach at Taiharuru Bay, north of Kennedy Bay, for a weekend of fishing. However after fishing on rocks, Donald Holzheimer said they decided to go spearfishing and were coming down over a cliff face, with the aid of a rope, when Dylan's rope broke, sending him plummeting to the ground backwards.


"We were coming down over the face of that cliff and the rope broke and he just shot past me on a free fall all the way down. It was definitely [12-14 metres] at least. It wasn't even rolling or sliding it was just a straight free fall on to the big jagged rocks."


Firefighters from Coromandel and Kennedy Bay, along with local police, help create a human chain to carry 95kg Dylan Holzheimer 100m over rocks to a waiting rescue chopper. Firefighters from Coromandel and Kennedy Bay, along with local police, help create a human chain to carry 95kg Dylan Holzheimer 100m over rocks to a waiting rescue chopper. Donald Holzheimer says he felt helpless as he couldn't reach his son as he fell. He then yelled out to him and Dylan confirmed that he didn't hit his head and could move his arms.


He then scrambled down himself and made his son comfortable before making the estimated 1km journey to his friend's bach for help. As he got close he started whistling. His friend heard him, whistling in response, and grabbing his emergency response beacon. The pair arrived back to Dylan and activated the beacon. Donald says he stayed with his son while his friend went back to the bach and drove about 2km to get a cellphone signal to call 111.


Donald Holzheimer credits the way his son was able to fall - by somehow putting his feet down first - which lessened the impact on his back.


"He was falling backwards and I thought he was going to land on his head but somehow he managed to get his feet back underneath him and he landed on his feet."


The impact was so intense that it blew apart the soles of his Timberland boots and the seams of his jeans, which blew apart at the thighs. Also helping was the fact he had a backpack on with a hoodie and a towel inside.


"I think that padding on his lower back saved him, too."


Donald Holzheimer was amazed at how quickly emergency services were able to reach the scene.


"Dylan fell at about 10.50am and we saw the chopper coming over the horizon at noon and they were with us by 12.15pm."


However, there was nowhere for the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter to land so it had to hover low to the ground and drop off a paramedic, before flying to higher ground.


Just as the crew arrived, about a dozen local firefighters - from Coromandel Fire Brigade and the Kennedy Bay Rural Fire Authority - turned up.


Donald Holzheimer couldn't believe his eyes as he says there was no way they would have been able to carry his son the 100m over the large, jagged rocks to the chopper.


Instead, they created a human chain, eventually carrying Dylan - who is 95kg and about 190cm tall - all the way.


"We couldn't carry the stretcher because it was so hard to walk, you would be tripping, so we created a human chain and we just passed him through us. As we let go we just went back to the start of the line for about 100m."


"All in all it was only an hour before they got to us, which, being such a remote location was just unbelievable."


"If it wasn't for those people in helping move him out of there to where the helicopter could get to him . . . it was amazing. That was one of the reasons why we fell in love with New Zealand 11 years ago. We moved here back in 2003 but had to move back [to United States] for family reasons and in January we came back and now have residency. It's things like this that make the Kiwi people stand out. It's just so heartfelt and the people come together and help in a time of need."


She says it's a miracle their son escaped with just a fractured leg and a "tiny, tiny" chip in his spine.


Their son still can't walk and is in a lot of pain. However, they say they feel blessed to just have him alive.


John Walker, Coromandel Fire Brigade chief, praised the group for having an emergency response beacon on hand to use.


He said activating the beacon meant they could respond quickly as it refined their location to within about 5m.


"I just thought it was a great piece of forward thinking. It doesn't matter if two calls go to the same place, it's just getting there and getting there quickly . . . it's great because there's a need for them. We're an isolated spot and cellphones don't always work. I don't think the guy was in good shape either."


As for the praise from the family, Walker says their response was just part of the job.

Hi Nicole,

The person that had the accident - Dylan, was my friend's son and we were on my family's remote forest block. The PLB is mine, and i activated it after the accident.

Dylan's mother wrote and submitted the article to the paper and i have copied it into your story. My name isn't mentioned in the article - i am the friend they refer to. i can be seen in a yellow shirt and blue hat looking on in the second photo in this article:

here is the details of the plb, registration etc.

let me know if any more info required, if you need an alternate article etc