Monday, October 17, 2011

RACQ Central Queensland (CQ) Rescue Helicopter Rescue Service Celebrates 15 Years and Remembers Crash Victims

The RACQ-CQ Rescue Helicopter Service, which has flown almost 5000 missions in the Mackay, Isaac, and Whitsunday regions since it was established, recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, with a gala dinner and charity auction in their hangar at the Mackay Airport.

The event, which was presented by CHC Australia, gave the community an opportunity to join in the celebrations of the last 15 years of essential life-saving service the RACQ-CQ Rescue Helicopter organisation has provided.

The first mission flown by the crew of RACQ-CQ Rescue was to Hayman Island in September 1996. The service has grown over the years and now does close to 500 jobs a year, with a total of almost 5000 missions flown, saving countless lives, and improving outcomes for many of its patients.

Some of the tasks the service attends can be intense, with the crews dealing with the trauma of road accidents and search and rescues.

However, tragedy unfortunately struck the service in 2003 when on Friday October 17, the Rescue chopper, which was on a routine medical retrieval to Hamilton Island, failed to arrive at its destination.

The wreckage of the Bell 407 chopper VH-HTD (pictured below in 2002) was discovered six metres under water, about 15 kilometres north of Mackay.

The crew, all aged 31, were experienced and sadly all perished in the tragedy. A memorial stone (pictured below) was unveiled at Mackay Airport, near the RACQ-CQ Rescue building and hangar.

In the early days, the RACQ-CQ Rescue headquarters were in fact on the General Aviation side of Mackay Airport and consisted of two dongas, and when it rained, these would flood.

Now, even though the RACQ-CQ Rescue helicopter service operates and flies out of a new and much bigger facility on the terminal side of the Airport, their job of saving lives across the region is still their passion.

Pilot Alex Crawford recently recounted to the Daily Mercury newspaper about the day they got the new base prepared and were waiting for the first phone call of the day.

“When you first start doing this job it does take a long time to get used to the fact that the phone can go off at any time."

“Recently the phone went off at 2am and you just get up and take your time.

“We have to wait for the paramedic to get here (they don't stay on base), so we have time to get our coffee get dressed, go downstairs; do a flight plan and work out where we are going.

“It might be as simple as going to Moranbah, or it might be some strange property in the middle of nowhere where you have never been before, so we have to work out how we are going to get there.

“We also have to discuss what we need if we have a light strip (for when we land) or is it a dirt runway and if it is on a property will the homestead be lit up.

“There is never really any pressure on us here to get airborne in six minutes, which is good. In saying that, we try to get airborne as quickly as possible and that all depends if all the medical staff are here,”
Mr Crawford said.

The RACQ-CQ Rescue Helicopter service is a valuable service that serves a vast area of Central Queensland. Donations are welcomed all year round. Visit the CQ Rescue website ( for details.

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