MAF Papua New Guinea medevacs tree-climbing boy on New Year’s Eve

Published: 31 Dec 2020

Father comforts son, Mark, as he’s transferred to MAF’s plane by stretcher

On the very last day of 2020, MAF Pilot – Philipp Sutter, gets an unexpected request. He’s asked to medevac 10-year-old Mark from the remote PNG village of Wawoi Falls who fell out of a tree and broke his leg. Philipp recalls his final rescue mission of the year...

'Just before take-off at Mougulu Airport, we received a message asking if we had enough time and fuel to pick up a sick patient from Wawoi Falls and take him to Kiunga Town in Western Province.’  

All change!

'Wawoi Falls is a remote village in the southern lowlands of Papua New Guinea in the middle of the jungle, next to a gigantic waterfall from the Wawoi River.  

The distance from Mougulu Airport to Wawoi Falls is about 40 nautical miles, but the flight path was in the opposite direction we had planned to fly. 

Given that we had filled MAF’s P2-MAH’s engine with an extra 60 minutes of fuel at Mount Hagen due to the rainy season, we decided that rescuing Mark was possible.

For this new diversion, we had 20 minutes’ worth of fuel each way, leaving us with an extra 20 minutes of fuel – enough to get us to Kiunga Town.

Having received a good weather report from Kiunga Town, we decided to make the extra journey. This turned out to be vital for 10-year-old Mark who had fallen from a tree a week ago and broke his right leg. He was in a lot of pain and had been without a cast for a whole week.’ 

Mark on mattress with his broken leg supported by the harness and his father’s hand

Bad weather works in Mark’s favour 

‘The medevac kit onboard contains an inflatable mattress, which Mark lies on and the harness secures him for the flight. Mark’s father holds up his leg up, which causes Mark the least amount of pain.  

As we fly towards Suabi Airport to pick up some other sick patients, we learn that the weather there is very bad with lots of rain and cloud. We’re therefore unable to land at Suabi and fly straight to Kiunga Town instead.  

Using HF radio, we advise Lakis - our base manager in Kiunga - to call an ambulance. As we land, a Toyota Landcruiser ‘ambulance’ approaches and with the help of the base’s stretcher, we’re able to lift Mark off MAF’s airplane and straight into the vehicle.’

The Toyota Landcruiser or ‘ambulance’ takes Mark to hospital after MAF lands in Kiunga