A New Zealand man was visiting the remote village of Suabi when he was attacked on June 19 as he tried to protect his girlfriend, a French anthropologist, from a sexual assault.
An emergency call was placed to the MAF base at Rumginae, about 100klms to the west, where there is an airstrip and hospital. MAF suspended flights into Suabi as police prepared to investigate the incident.
Initial reports indicated the man had been stabbed, had lost a lot of blood and was having trouble breathing. This was an emergency requiring a swift response by skilled professionals using reliable equipment - including the aircraft necessary to reach the badly injured man - as quickly as possible.
Sitting quietly on the grass apron alongside the airstrip when the alarm was raised was one of the newly acquired MAF GA8 Airvans. The sturdy, utilitarian 8-seat Airvans made by GippsAero in Morwell (Vic) are ideally suited for emergency medical evacuation flights (medivacs)*.
Pilot Nick Swalm, normally based at Wewak but in Rumginae to fill in for a pilot family on leave, dropped what he was doing on that quiet Sunday afternoon and ran to prepare the plane.
"I readied the aircraft as Dr Daniel Priest and Dr Sharon Brandon from Rumginae Hospital boarded with their medical equipment.
Speared in both lungs and beaten with a rock
"On arrival at Suabi we found the young man had been speared in both lungs and in the stomach and beaten on the head with a rock.
"As the doctors assessed him and stabilised him for the flight I provided the aircraft oxygen tank and pilot's oxygen mask to help him breathe for the 50-minute flight.
"By God's grace, there were doctors, surgeons, a pilot and a capable aircraft in the right place to save this young man's life that day."
Doctors commented that evening that, had the aircraft arrived an hour or two later, the man most likely would have died.
MAF performed 495 medivac flights in PNG last year.