A dairy farmer bringing cows to safety in the dark was swept down a flooded river more than a kilometer before he could grab a tree in the middle of the raging stream.
The man was eventually pulled out of the tree on Walkhams Road near Ashburton a few hours later by a local helicopter pilot credited with saving his life and that of another man.
Darryl Butterick said he was driving to Walkhams Road to check the level of the rising river on his farm when he saw a light flicker in a tree around 7:15 a.m. on Sunday.
He didn’t know what it was but soon put two and two together when a man came up to him and said his buddy had been swept away while they were moving inventory together on a property more than 1 km upriver.
* Live: Floods and blackouts in Canterbury during persistent heavy rain
* ‘Major Rainfall’: Floods, road closures and power outages hit Canterbury
* Canterbury Floods: What You Need To Know About Road Closures
It is believed that the flickering light was the dairy farmer’s headlamp.
Butterick quickly began organizing a rescue operation.
The police said they were informed of the incident around 7:50 a.m.
Bad weather prevented a rescue helicopter from flying into the area, and the river was too fast to involve a jet boat.
However, a local helicopter operator responded to a call for help.
The dairy farmer was finally picked from the tree around 10.50 a.m.
The local helicopter operator, who refused to comment on Sunday night, is believed to have also helped rescue another man from the flood in the area in an unrelated incident.
Butterick said, “Without the pilot, two guys would have lost their lives – end of story.”
He declined to comment as the men both had a “damn close call” and he wanted to respect their privacy.
The rescued dairy farmer is said to have been in a “state of shock” on Sunday evening and was aware that he was “lucky enough to be alive”.
There were several more bailouts in Canterbury on Sunday as heavy rain and rising rivers flooded the area and emergency services told people to stay home.
Six people were trapped in a paddock on Foothills in Okuku, north of Christchurch Road, after the Ashley River blasted its banks around 2:30 p.m.
They were rescued after a helicopter was sent to the area.
A police spokeswoman said early signs suggested the group was in the area checking inventory when they got into trouble.
All six were safe and sound, she said.
Emergency services participated in another rescue on Mill Road near the town of Cust, northwest of Christchurch, after a car was reported stranded from rising floods.
A police spokeswoman said they were informed of the incident shortly before 4 p.m.
Fire and Emergency NZ spokesman Brent Dunn said six people in a car had been brought to safety by a fire department.
There is major flooding on Thompson’s Track in Ashburton where a farmer had to be rescued.
Previously, the driver of a car that was sweeping down the Ashley River was in serious condition, police said.
A police spokeswoman said the man, the sole occupant of the vehicle, was found around 11:40 a.m. near Barkers Rd in Loburn, North Canterbury.
A spokeswoman for St. John said the man was seriously injured and a rescue helicopter flown him to Christchurch Hospital.
Another person was rescued after their car got stuck in the flood of Retreat Road near Avonside Dr in Christchurch at around 11:30 a.m. The person was believed to be unharmed.