Peter Button - Lady Elizabeth II Rescue

Lady Elizabeth II Rescue

On 2 July 1986, the police launch Lady Elizabeth II capsized in heavy seas at the entrance to Wellington Harbour whilst on a training mission. Despite the appalling conditions Button and his son Clive managed to save two of the four crew members, skipper Constable Jim McLean and crew member Constable Rod Heard. Crew members Constable Glen Hughes and Senior Sergeant Phil Ward both died in the accident. Photographs of the rescue show his helicopter hovering in the troughs with its rotors below the peaks of the oncoming waves, estimated to be 10 m (33 ft) high. As a result of his actions Peter Button attained the status of a hero in Wellington, and was known by the nickname 'Saint Peter'. On 18 November 1987, Governor General Paul Reeves awarded Button the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his part in the rescue of the crew from the Lady Elizabeth II.

Shortly after the Lady Elizabeth II rescue it was announced that a tender for the provision of helicopter services to the local harbour authority, which wished to fly harbour pilots out to ships before they reached the harbour entrance, had gone to a rival firm. The future of Capital Helicopters was placed in jeopardy as a result of the firm's failure to win this contract, and there was a public outcry that Button's efforts were not being recognised by a body that was often reliant on his volunteer efforts.

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