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Watch NZH Local Focus: See a horrific crash at Claudelands

By Hunter Calder

Over 300 people die on New Zealand roads every year but a group of actors are not among them. These actors are part of an accident simulation for the Australasian Rescue Challenge being held in Hamilton this weekend.

"Your heart rate goes up, you're sweating, you've got all these noises around you," says General Manager of the United Fire Brigades Association, Ceara Owen Perry. "People are cutting metal, glass is being smashed, there's people yelling and screaming, the car is moving and shaking and you're upside down."

Creating a realistic accident scenario is important to test the competitor's emotions and reactions, so some of the special effects are pretty convincing. Kim Schmidt helps create the 'wounds'.

"This one's for a road crash rescue," she says, "so she's whacked her arm in the car and that's given her a fracture, so it's bleeding under the skin which is causing the bruising, and some of the others will have the bones sticking out which is really fun."

For Ashleigh Stove, who's a training paramedic at AUT, being a patient is an opportunity to experience a car crash from the inside.

"Basically you get your moulage, you get your makeup on and you learn what injuries you have and you get into the crushed car and you hope for the best," she says. "You know we study to help people, but it's good to know what a patient is feeling like and I guess there is no closer experience than something like this."

There are 20 teams competing - nine from New Zealand, ten from Australia and one from Hong Kong.

"It's a bit of pressure," Graeme Mould from the Geraldine Road Crash Rescue team says.
"There are four judges in there judging everything you say and do as well, so yeah there's a lot on the line for the teams that are competing as well. But it's a good learning symposium for everyone's that's involved as well."

This event is good practice for the Geraldine Road Rescue Team. In three weeks they're representing New Zealand at the World Rescue Challenge in Romania. But that doesn't stop Christine Horne from getting nervous before each challenge.

"It's the whole thing," she says. "What are we going to be exposed to? What are we going to do? Because I'm the medic in the team so it's all about patient focus and getting your patient out carefully, spinal mobilisation and stabilising and yep, it's full on."

At least 70% of motor vehicle accidents in New Zealand are attended by volunteers and scenarios like this give first responders an opportunity to upskill and use new equipment in a controlled environment.

"Most of the time we're there first along with the ambulance service," says Roland Chaney, of Whitianga Fire Brigade. "You do what you've got to do and these scenarios they set up here are usually ten times harder than what you get on the side of the road."

The public are being encouraged experience a crash for themselves this weekend at Claudelands in Hamilton.

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