BIG YEAR: RACQ LifeFlight pilot Franco Bertoli and aircrew officer Shayne White reflect on a record year of rescues.
BIG YEAR: RACQ LifeFlight pilot Franco Bertoli and aircrew officer Shayne White reflect on a record year of rescues.

Rescuers reveal missions that shaped record year

From the Kinkuna rollover, to searches for missing people who’ve gone overboard, RACQ LifeFlight pilot Franco Bertoli said there were a number of memorable missions out of the record 306 missions in the last financial year.

And their new facility has helped them get in the sky even faster.

Mr Bertoli said the new base saw response times improve, particularly at night now that they have sleeping facilities on site.

He said being able to help and potentially save someone’s life was why they did the job.

With time of the essence for LifeFlight missions, aircrew officer Shayne White said timing was crucial.

“Sometimes it’s life or death when it comes down to it, so the sooner we can get a critical care paramedic on scene, to get that initial response time down is very crucial,” he said.

Due to the remote nature of some missions, Mr White said there were occasions when they were first on scene.

“You get the sheer look of relief on the persons face, if they are coherent enough, to let them know that you’re there,” he said.

“[It’s a] very fulfilling situation when you get a good ending.”

While not every mission has a good ending, Mr White said they were there to help and provide as much assistance as possible.

Having been at the Bundaberg base for four years, he said there were fewer calls to the Bruce Highway recently, with the black spots being “cleaned up”.

When it came to hot spots, he said it depended on the time of year.

During the warmer weather Mr White said they were often called to people falling off horses or snake bite incidents out west.

One memorable mission for Mr White was a spearfishing incident where a man stabbed himself in the leg.

RACQ Lifeflight and Queensland Ambulance Service coming to the aid of a spearfisherman who stabbed himself in the leg.
RACQ Lifeflight and Queensland Ambulance Service coming to the aid of a spearfisherman who stabbed himself in the leg.

“He was an easygoing bloke, had a good story with a wrestle with a fish, a massive mackerel I believe, and he was wrestling it underwater,” he said.

“He had to try and knife the fish, the fish was attacking him and after several hacks he missed and stabbed himself in the leg.

“We flew out, 50 mile northeast of here, met up with the spearfishing boat charter and winched him off.”

Mr White said they were able to airlift the man, with a decent knife wound, to hospital.

“He got to tell the story and he got to keep the fish so it was good,” he said.

RACQ Lifeflight and Queensland Ambulance Service coming to the aid of a spear fisherman who stabbed himself in the leg.
RACQ Lifeflight and Queensland Ambulance Service coming to the aid of a spear fisherman who stabbed himself in the leg.

Another successful mission for the local crew was the search for an elderly man, reported missing near Gin Gin, earlier this year.

When the call for a mission came in Mr Bertoli said flight planning, weather conditions and fuel requirements were all taken into consideration while liaising with the paramedic and aircrew officer on what’s needed for the task.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Bertoli said there were a number of procedures put in place to keep the crew safe when dealing with patients.

Of the 306 missions, majority were traffic crashes, followed by cardiac incidents and search and rescue missions.

“Please be careful on the roads at all times of the year,” Mr Bertoli said.

“Regardless of whether it’s day, night, cold, be aware and make sure you’re driving to your surroundings and the conditions”.

Before heading out, he urged the community to ensure they had safety equipment and registered their personal locator beacons.

Mr White said year-on-year their missions continued to increase with the population, while people continued to venture outdoors for activities.

“You’ve got more people on the road, more people holidaying and more people out in the ocean doing their thing, so accidents are going to happen,” he said.

BIG YEAR: RACQ LifeFlight helicopter in the hanger at the newly constructed Bundaberg base.
BIG YEAR: RACQ LifeFlight helicopter in the hanger at the newly constructed Bundaberg base.

RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Director of Aeromedical Services, Dave Donaldson said those airlifts were valued at more than $3.8 million, but, of course, none of that comes at any cost to the patients.

“The Bundaberg base is getting busier, year on year and this new base means we can significantly enhance the quality of care, safety and comfort for patients,” he said.

Across Queensland, motor vehicle accidents were one of the most common reasons, for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue’s community helicopters call-outs.

RACQ spokesperson Lucinda Ross said the mobility club is a proud naming rights sponsor of the air ambulance jets, helicopters and Critical Care Doctors.

“For 115 years, RACQ has been Queensland’s advocate for improving road safety for motorists, so our sponsorship of LifeFlight is just another way we can help people who become the victims of road crashes,” Ms Ross said.

“Sadly, we still see far too many people injured on our roads, but we’re grateful to the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue teams, for their work to get Queenslanders the urgent medical care they need, when they need it.”

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