Eric Jordan was able to speak to his wife Rachel moments after the helicopter she was on crashed on a Canterbury golf course, leaving her with a spate of injuries, including spinal injuries and broken bones.
“I told her it was going to be okay and we’d get through it together,” he told the Herald last night.
The helicopter was also carrying newlyweds Fay El Hanafy and Mahdi Zougub, whose wedding day it was.
The award-winning photographer was travelling with the couple to do a bridal shoot when the helicopter they were on went down at Terrace Downs Resort in Windwhistle, 80km west of Christchurch, on Saturday.
El Hanafy had surgery on Sunday after suffering a broken back, foot, and legs. Zougub also has a fractured spine and was due to have surgery yesterday.
Eric said Rachel was worried her back was broken when they spoke on the phone just after the crash and before emergency services arrived.
“I heard …a lot of screaming in the background that I assumed was the bride, and groom, and pilot, who had been injured as well.”
Rachel had given her husband’s number to someone at the scene who had called him for her.
“I just had a chance to reassure her while we waited for the rescue response team.
“I had a few words with her … then I heard the ambulance and rescue teams had arrived so they took her away and I just said goodbye at that point.
“I think she lost consciousness during part of the accident. She didn’t recall the moment it exactly went down, she just remembers right before and right after. I’m pretty sure the bride fainted as well.”
Rachel had her second surgery yesterday, to repair damage to her feet and ankles.
She has spinal fractures, five fractured ribs, lung laceration, a fractured sternum, a fractured arm in a few places, and fractured feet and ankles.
“She told me she recalls the engine had shut off at some point, that it completely lost power in mid-air, and it seemed like the whole thing went dead.”
Rachel has a severe fear of flying and was nervous about flying south from Northland for the wedding, Eric said.
The couple moved to New Zealand from the United States in 2015 to live in Northland.
“She was actually scared to get on an airplane before she went to the wedding. She had to fly from the Bay of Islands to Christchurch, so she was scared about that flight.
“But it turned out to be the helicopter that was the big issue.”
Eric has been told to “settle in for a long journey”, with Rachel expected to be in hospital for three months.
He says he is just trying to keep her as positive as he can.
“I know a lot of the healing process relies on having hope, so I’m just trying to give her that. That’s all I can do, [giving] her as much hope as possible for now.”
A givealittle page set up to raise money to support Rachel’s recovery says.