Rescued Bundaberg family remembers
One year ago the Smith family was stranded on the front step of its Bundaberg North Queenslander surrounded by rising floodwaters and uncertain of survival.
Husband Daniel, Helen, heavily pregnant with son Andrew and their 15 month old child James were spotted by CareFlight and winched to safety during Bundaberg’s worst flood on record.
“I’m still so grateful to CareFlight,” Helen said.
“I handed James over to Anthony (the CareFlight QAS Paramedic) to be winched into the chopper. He was so petrified but it was the best thing.
“I said take my baby, make him safe.”
Earlier, not knowing the extent of the flood threat, the family had opted to gather supplies and bunker down in their high stumped Queenslander.
“It’s so surreal. It was a perfect (sunny) day and then the water came, and kept on coming,” Helen said.
The family found itself stranded by the rapidly rising floodwaters and on the front step of their home, water lapping, when spotted by the CareFlight crew. The team had just winched two women, their neighbours, to safety and was doing another search of the street.
Helen says they were so relieved when the chopper arrived.
“We had been waving a yellow raincoat trying to get the attention of the helicopters and I knew in my heart that the CareFlight chopper had seen us,” Helen said.
The next few moments would be harrowing for the Smith family with Daniel first up the rescue wire, then son James, firmly strapped to the paramedic’s chest.
“Seeing my baby being winched up was horrible, there are absolutely no words to describe it.”
“He was screaming and the look of terror on his face was heartbreaking, but I knew that he was in good hands and that it would all be okay in just a few moments.”
The heavily pregnant Helen was last up the line, greeted by her relieved family in the helicopter.
During that shift on Monday, January 28 that one CareFlight crew would winch five people to safety and airlift a further 25 people to higher ground.
Twenty-five CareFlight crew, four helicopters, including the iconic blue and yellow RACQ CareFlight Rescue choppers and two air ambulance Learjets would airlift more than 200 stranded residents in just 48 hours.
A year on and that day, and that particular rescue is still very vivid for RACQ CareFlight Rescue Aircrewman Brian Guthrie.
“I recently saw a photo of the family, all four of them smiling. It was great to see,” he said.
“While we train hard to do those lifesaving winches, it still humbles me that people have so much trust in us.
“Helen handed over her 15 month old child to our CareFlight team to save him.”
For the Smith family the 2013 Australia Day weekend will always have special significance, but for the wrong reasons.
“It was the longest day, longest morning of my life.”
Helen gave birth to second son Andrew in April. She says it’s changed her perspective.
“You look at the little kids and you think if there’s another flood, there will be no next time. You just pack up and just go.”