Canterbury wedding helicopter crash: Badly injured photographer transferred to Auckland, long recovery ahead

The wedding photographer badly injured in a horror helicopter crash during a Christchurch couple’s wedding earlier this month has been transferred to Middlemore Hospital on a specialist medical flight.

And while she is struggling being separated from the newlyweds who were injured alongside her she is finding peace in spending time with her family and being taken for walks away from her hospital room.

Rachel Jordan sustained significant injuries to her spine, ribs, sternum, arms, feet and lungs when the Robinson R44 helicopter’s engine lost power shortly after take-off at Terrace Downs resort on June 12.

She was documenting the wedding of Mahdi Zougub and Fay El Hanafy who were also badly injured, along with the pilot.

Jordan has been in Christchurch Hospital since the crash, in the Intensive Care Unit until she recovered enough from two major surgeries to be moved to an orthopaedic trauma ward.

She is now back in Auckland, closer to her family’s home in the Far North.

Jordan and her husband Eric moved to New Zealand from the US in 2015 with their young son Evan.

Eric Jordan said the last few days had been difficult as his wife readjusted following her transfer from Christchurch to Auckland, where her treatment continues on a trauma ward.

“I had a family friend travel along with Rachel on a small private medical plane to watch her and keep her comfortable – while I travelled back to the Bay of Islands to get some things in order before seeing Rachel in Auckland,” he told the Herald.

“I’ve been travelling back and forth to the hospital with my son Evan to spend time with her.”

In Auckland Jordan has a special spinal chair that staff “hoist” her into from her bed.

“We take her for a short walk through the hospital each day in her chair to give her a bit of fresh air and to begin putting her in a recovery mindset,” said Eric Jordan.

“She’s been recognised by many people in the hospital as the photographer involved in the helicopter crash – and one man even took us aside and asked if he and his wife could pray for us – which was quite touching.

“They recast all of the casts on her arms and legs with more long-lasting versions, and are monitoring her situation before she can be moved to the spinal unit.

“She has bright pink casts on her legs and arm – and my son Evan has been drawing an array of pictures on them for her to keep her spirits up.”

Eric Jordan said his wife had struggled readjusting to the new hospital.

She had found it hard being “separated from” Zougub and El Hanafy and the hospital staff who had treated her every day since the crash.

“She then started to have a few good days of rest – and then some pain returned to her rib cage where her ribs had been fractured and her doctors are trying to rule out a possible blood clot near the lungs or narrow it down to just pain radiating from the broken ribs,” Jordan’s husband explained.

“We also were told yesterday that the surgeons would like to perform an additional surgery on Rachel’s right foot to insert another plate in order to help increase her chances of walking again at some point in the future.

“With everything going on, it’s a lot for us to reconsider putting Rachel through another surgery – and we’ve been told we have until Friday to make a final decision.”

Eric Jordan said there was “quite a bit weighing on her mind right now”.

“And all she really wants is to get a bit of rest,” he said.

Jordan is yet to speak to the Civil Aviation Authority, which is investigating the crash.

“I am aiming to have her try and relay important details about the crash to the CAA either at the end of the week – or next week – however this will be delayed if we have to put Rachel under for another surgery,” said Eric Jordan.

Another stress for the couple was the impact of ongoing treatments.

Jordan is an extremely health conscious woman and was worried about future consequences of medical procedures.

“They want to perform additional CT scans to analyse the situation (in her ribs), however she has already been subjected to many of these scans and every additional one puts her at risk of developing cancer from the radiation in the future,” said Eric Jordan.

“I’ve taken it upon myself to researching alternatives to CT scans that would be less detrimental to her body – so we’re currently tied up with looking into this.”

The newlyweds remain in Christchurch Hospital and the pilot has been moved to Burwood Hospital where she is in a stable condition.

None of the three were ready to speak to the Herald yet.

Jordan may remain in hospital for several more months.

Helicopter owners Wyndon Aviation confirmed last week that the crash was the result of the engine losing power.

They are still working to establish how that happened.

The Civil Aviation Authority is also investigating and had reached out to the manufacturer.

They had also requested photos Jordan took seconds before the aircraft plummeted to the ground, hoping these may shed light on the situation.

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