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Wide Bay-Burnett RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Chopper Appeal Launch

The Bundaberg-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter and its crews have performed thousands of lifesaving missions for patients in the Wide Bay-Burnett region since it began flying there in 1998.

But now it’s their turn to ask for help from the local community.

The Wide Bay-Burnett RACQ LifeFlight (formerly known as CareFlight) Rescue Chopper Appeal was launched today with the help of the entire roll call of St Luke’s Anglican School, Bundaberg. The appeal has the goal of raising $580,000 to provide vital upgrades and maintenance for the local Bundaberg helicopter.

More than 800 students from St Luke’s kick-started the two month appeal with a ‘gold coin’ donation, then watched the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter land on their oval through mini LifeFlight ‘look up’ binoculars.

They also had the chance to meet Bundaberg-based pilot Frank Bertoli and crew.

LifeFlight Communications Manager Ian Eckersley said the appeal was important to ensure that the local helicopter could continue flying and save lives in the Wide Bay-Burnett region.

“We know how important our helicopter rescue service is to the Wide Bay-Burnett region in saving lives and getting world class medical help to people in their hour of need whether they’re on the beach, in a boat, on the roads or working on their property,” he said.

“In the past year, the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter crew has performed 262 missions in the Wide Bay-Burnett region and that’s ensured that those people have got to hospital, received the treatment they need and have been able to return to their loved ones.

“The money raised by the local community will be spent on the local chopper and will allow us to do important work on it, which is expensive.

“One of the most important upgrades is to give the chopper and crew Night Vision Goggle capability which will allow us to land the aircraft almost anywhere at night.

“This means we will be able to reach more patients and get them to vital care faster.” 

All funds raised from the appeal will go directly to the Bundaberg community helicopter and will include other essential works including an overhaul of the rescue hoist, rotor blade and tail rotor upgrade, structural enhancement and engineering works.

The Bundaberg Regional Council has been a long-time major supporter of LifeFlight’s livesaving work, donating $50,000 each year for the past seven years.

Mayor Jack Dempsey said Council’s most recent contribution of $50,000 was made in June for the 2015/16 financial year.

“LifeFlight has been of critical importance to the region in times of emergency and this was never more evident than during the devastating floods of 2013,” Mayor Dempsey said.

“LifeFlight answered the call for help during the Bundaberg Region’s worst natural disaster, sending four helicopters including the local Bundaberg helicopter and two Lear Jets into the region to help those in desperate need.

“The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters winched five people to safety and airlifted more than 200 Bundaberg residents to higher ground in two days.”

Also on hand to launch the 2016 appeal today was former patient, Bundaberg water safety and quality specialist Ron Dodds.

The 78 year old credits LifeFlight with saving his life after he suffered a major heart attack while in his home workshop on Easter Sunday in 2014.

An ambulance took Mr Dodds to the Bundaberg Airport where the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter was waiting to airlift him to a Brisbane hospital.

“My doctor said I was a lucky boy as only 8 percent of the patients with the same condition as I had, manage to survive. I wasn’t clinically dead, however the doctor said I was on my way out,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for the fast and efficient rescue performed by the LifeFlight crew, I probably wouldn't be alive and well to tell the story.

"The helicopters I've been on usually jiggled up and down but the LifeFlight one took off like an aircraft. So even though I was in pain, I must admit I enjoyed the ride.”

At hospital, doctors performed three surgeries on him within a week, however his recovery was fast and he was able to return home a day after his final surgery.

Mr Dodds and LifeFlight share the same vision – it’s all about saving lives.      

“I hold a strong belief that if you aren’t making someone’s life better, you aren’t living to the fullest. Improving people’s health through my work as a water quality specialist has given me so much satisfaction over the years,” said Mr Dodds.

It is hoped throughout the two month appeal, the Wide Bay-Burnett community will step up its support for LifeFlight and donate so that the service can continue the lifesaving work that makes a significant difference to patients in their hour of need.

To donate call 1800 630 014 or visit www.lifeflight.org.au/donate.

LifeFlight… anyone, anywhere, anytime.