Distress beacon and helmet save injured farmer and dogs from bull attack

2 February 2018

An injured Hawkes Bay farmer and his dogs have been saved from a bull attack by a PLB distress beacon and a helmet.

Farmer Robert Pattullo, who is also a trustee of the Hawkes Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust (HBRHT), went out to work with 25 bulls on his Puketitiri farm west of Napier yesterday.

Mr Patullo tied his four dogs to a fence about 50 metres away from the herd to keep them at a distance from the bulls and not upset them.

As he approached the bulls on his quad bike one of them charged, knocked him and the quad bike over and continued to attack.

“The bull circled past the overturned quad bike and hunted me down, gored me into the ground a couple of times before I was able to get back to the safety of the quad bike,” Mr Patullo says.

Eventually, the bull backed away but by then Mr Patullo had head and chest injuries and his quad bike was wrecked. He had lost his cellphone in the attack, and it would probably have been of little use because of marginal reception.

Beside him was his helmet, and on his belt was his PLB.

Mr Patullo’s helmet had saved him from more serious head injuries and within minutes of activating the PLB its signal was received at the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ), in Lower Hutt.

Search and Rescue Officer Chris Wilson said she received the signal at RCCNZ just after 8am, and as is standard practice, an HBRHT helicopter with two paramedics on board lifted off from Hastings at 8:48am. They arrived at the scene of the attack at 8:57am and landed near Mr Patullo.

“I never thought I would benefit from this amazing service myself, you just never know,” Mr Patullo says.

The pilot, Jeremy Bruce, noticed the bulls as he landed the helicopter but did not think too much about them, at first thinking Mr Patullo had been hurt in a quad bike accident.

Paramedics treat victim.
Hawkes Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust © 2020
Paramedics treating Mr Patullo who is under the quad bike.

Then, one of the bulls started roaring, stamping, and acting aggressively towards the helicopter and paramedics.

The paramedics quickly got Mr Patullo on board but he insisted they not leave his dogs behind. He was afraid they would be killed by the bulls.

The paramedics untied the dogs from the fence, put them on board the helicopter too, and all of the four dogs, Mr Patullo, two paramedics, Mr Bruce, and a flight-crew member were squeezed in and flown to the farm’s woolshed.

The dogs were left at the woolshed and Mr Patullo was flown to Hawkes Bay Regional Hospital for treatment. He was discharged that evening.

“This is as bad as it gets, totally unexpected and random from a single bull in a mob that gets shifted regularly,” says Mr Pattullo.

“My cell phone had got misplaced in an area of marginal coverage anyway so I was very grateful of the decision to purchase PLB’s for the team out here late last year.

“Having the bull continue to circle me around the quad bike was very unnerving but I was reassured that having activated my PLB that the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter would be coming to my assistance shortly.

“We have been wearing quad helmets for quite some time but probably never imagined that a helmet would be put to the use it was today. It was ripped off in the attack and smashed up a fair bit but very grateful to be wearing it.

Rescue helicopters.
Hawkes Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust © 2020
The helicopter that rescued Mr Patullo. One of the bulls that attacked him is in the background.

“I can’t thank the crew of the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter enough, Pilot Jeremy Bruce, Crewman Ian Clarke and Paramedics Kim Crysell and Ryan Sutherland.

“I was pretty badly banged up when they arrived, but they settled me down and made me comfortable for the journey to the Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

“Getting my farm working dogs in the helicopter as well and home safely exemplified the dedication of the crew. “As a Trustee of the HBRHT we strive to provide the 24/7 rescue helicopter service that our Hawkes Bay community deserves and so generously supports.

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