Rescue 522 Bundaberg Based Rescue Helicopter - Meet The Crew

Our Story - Rescue 522

The familiar buzz of the iconic blue and yellow RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter is well known in Bundaberg and beyond, but the rescue chopper service has a long, colourful history in the region.

In March 1998, the then Sunshine Coast Helicopter Rescue Service recognised a desperate need for an aeromedical rescue chopper further north, in the Wide Bay.

Operating as the ENERGEX Rescue helicopter, a Bell Jetranger became operational out of the Bundaberg Airport.  The move was initially approved as a three year trial.

In May 2001, the Queensland Government committed additional funding to continue the Bundaberg service and upgrade the base’s aircraft to a Bell Longranger.

Five years later, the then State Government increased funding for all of Queensland’s community-based helicopters.

The following year, in December 2007, Bundaberg’s Bell Longranger was replaced with a Twin-Squirrel.

2008 saw the base upgrade its helicopter to a BK117.

The chopper’s colours changed in 2009, when ENERGEX sold its retail business to Australian Gas & Light, the company which subsequently became the service’s new major sponsor.  The fleet of rescue choppers then became operational as the AGL Action Rescue helicopters.

In July 2013, the decision was made to merge CareFlight (operating out of the Gold Coast and Darling Downs) and the Sunshine Coast Helicopter Rescue Service (with bases on the Sunshine Coast and in Bundaberg).

The move saw the union of Queensland’s two biggest helicopter rescue services and the Bundy-based chopper change its colours to the iconic blue and yellow.

Three short years later, the aeromedical rescue organisation was renamed LifeFlight, but that’s where the change ended; pilots, air crew officers and Queensland Ambulance Service flight paramedics have remained committed to saving Queensland lives.

All crew members who work on board the helicopters are local, so live and breathe for the Wide Bay region.

That means when disaster has struck and the aeromedical crews have been called in to action, it hits home for them too.

NOTABLE MISSIONS

  • The hunt for the man responsible for the horrific Childers Backpacker Hostel in 2001.
  • Queensland Rail Tilt Train derailment in Rosedale in 2004.
  • Devastating Bundaberg floods in 2011 & 2013.
  • Ocean searches for boat crews reported missing off the coast of Fraser Island (2016) and 1770 (2017).

Mission Stories

Rescue chopper makes beach landing to rescue injured rider

 

The Bundaberg-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter has made a sandy landing on a Fraser Island beach, to pick up an injured motorbike rider.

It's believed the young male fell off his motorcycle, while riding on one of the island's northern beaches.

The aeromedical team was called to the coastline around 3:45pm, this afternoon.

Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) paramedics were also tasked.

Once the helicopter landed, the LifeFlight QAS Flight Paramedic treated the patient for injuries to his lower right leg.

The rescue helicopter then flew him to Bundaberg Hospital in a stable condition

Man airlifted after being crushed by heavy vehicle

 

The Bundaberg-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter has airlifted a man to hospital, after a broken down Recreational Vehicle he was attempting to remove from the road, rolled onto him.

He suffered chest and abdominal injuries in the incident, which happened late this afternoon.

The rescue helicopter landed at the scene, south of Biggenden.

 

Emergency beacon leads rescue chopper to injured woman

 

The Bundaberg-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter was called into action earlier this afternoon (Fri 12th), in response to a signal from an emergency beacon, activated north west of Bundaberg. 

Australian Search and Rescue (AusSAR) tasked the helicopter to the Bundaberg region shortly after 1:30pm.

The aeromedical crew was informed a woman, aged in her forties, had crashed her motorbike and suffered multiple injuries.

The Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), which she'd activated, lead the aircraft straight to the incident, where they were able to land at the scene.

After initial treatment was given by paramedics from the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS), the woman was flown to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital for further treatment. 

She was transported in a stable condition. 

RACQ LifeFlight's QAS Flight Paramedic assisted local Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) officers, in treating the male, who is aged in his fifties.

He was airlifted to the Bundaberg Hospital, in a stable condition.

Bundaberg RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crews put skills to the test

 

The Bundaberg-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crew has performed several mock rescues, as part of ongoing rigorous training, which ensures they're ready for any emergency. 

RACQ LifeFlight Rescue Pilot, Tony Miller, said the exercise is invaluable to rescuers.

"Maritime work is some of the most difficult stuff we do, so it's very important to keep our skills up-to-date."

Flying off the coast from Bundaberg, the crew worked alongside the Bundaberg-based Volunteer Marine Rescue to hone their search, rescue and water winching skills. 

The training included vessel transfers, raft drop-offs and winching out of the water, to reflect what an actual ocean rescue could potentially involve.

"For example, if a vessel has sunk, the survivors could already be in the water, so we need to be ready to perform that task," Mr Miller said.

The three exercises are essential for the Bundaberg-based crew to practise, given the high number of sea-based missions they're tasked with.

A notable mission for the team, late last year, saw a man winched to safety, after his kayak capsized off the coast of Fraser Island. 

He was in the water for approximately two hours and had drifted around one kilometre from the shore, when the Bundaberg RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter hoisted him from the ocean.

This style of training happens every six months, so RACQ LifeFlight Rescue can respond to all situations, while maintaining its commitment to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. 

Exhausted teenager winched from mountain

 

Bundaberg's RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter has winched a female teenager from a mountain, in the North Burnett region, after she reportedly became ill while hiking.

The chopper was called into action just before 4 o'clock this afternoon.

It's believed the girl was walking up the mountain, with another person, when she became disoriented and reportedly fell unconscious.

By the time the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue aeromedical crew arrived, local emergency services had already managed to walk to the scene, but decided it was too steep to carry the patient out on foot.

A Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) Flight Paramedic was winched down to assess the teenager.

The helicopter was able to land nearby.

A short time later, the chopper returned to the scene to winch the patient to safety.

The girl was hoisted up to the chopper, accompanied by the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue QAS Flight Paramedic.

She was flown to Hervey Bay Hospital, in a stable condition but suffering nausea, dehydration and exhaustion.

Peter Marris - Pilot

Q. 1 - When did you start working for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue?

A. Feburary 1998

Q. 2 - What was your job before joining the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue team?

A. Royal Australian Air Force Pilot

Q.3 - Why do you enjoy working in the Wide Bay and beyond?

A. Great part of the world to fly around in perfect weather, while helping out community members in need.

Q.4 - What do you do when you're not on shift, helping to save lives?

A. Fly drones, watch NRL, play golf, enjoy a good movie and home brewing.

Shaun Gillespie - Pilot

Q. 1 - When did you start working for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue?

July 2017

Q. 2 - What was your job before joining the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue team?

Working in NSW on the Newborn and Paediatric Emergency Transport Service (NETS). 

Q.3 - Why do you enjoy working in the Wide Bay and beyond?

Similar to my last role, I like being able to help people in need.  There is a lot of variety in the things we do and the weather is awesome.  It's great living a short walk from quiet beaches and being away from the rat race of Sydney.

Q.4 - What do you do when you're not on shift, helping to save lives?

My 3 girls keep me pretty busy but I like to get out and about visiting different areas of the region, gold prospecting and camping.

Tony Miller - Pilot

Q. 1 - When did you start working for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue?

LifeFlight commercial (fixed wing) in 2008 and joined Bundaberg RACQ LifeFlight Rescue in November 2018

Q. 2 - What was your job before joining the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue team?

I completed 31 years with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) - 16 years Royal Australian Navy and 15 years Australian Army.

Q.3 - Why do you enjoy working in the Wide Bay and beyond?

I love the variety, the unknowns, the challenges and the team work.  It's a great feeling being given the responsibility, the tools and the ability to continue to serve our community, since leaving ADF.

Q.4 - What do you do when you're not on shift, helping to save lives?

I've bought a nice older home, on nearly 2 acres, so creating my nest keeps me busy.  Golf and water skiing are a close second.  

Frank Bertoli - Pilot

Q. 1 - When did you start working for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue?

April 2015

Q. 2 - What was your job before joining the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue team?

Flying on contract for the Royal Australian Air Force, in East Sale SAR.

Q.3 - Why do you enjoy working in the Wide Bay and beyond?

We're able to help people in need, while seeing beautiful beaches, Fraser Island and inland (when it's green.)

Q.4 - What do you do when you're not on shift, helping to save lives?

Ride my 1964 Vespa, which I restored, down to the café for a coffee and clay target shooting.

Dan Leggat - Bundaberg Base Lead/ Air Crew Officer

Q. 1 - When did you start working for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue?

January 2014

Q. 2 - What was your job before joining the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue team?

In the Australian Army as an Armoured Vehicle Crewman and Helicopter Crewman.

Q.3 - Why do you enjoy working in the Wide Bay and beyond?

I like the varied environments and work that we do.  We could be at Fraser Island in the morning and on a property in Monto in the afternoon.  You never know where we'll end up, or who we'll help. 

Q.4 - What do you do when you're not on shift, helping to save lives?

Having a round of golf, taking my son fishing and spending time with my family and friends. 

Chris Jowsey - Air Crew Officer

Q. 1 - When did you start working for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue?

January 2014

Q. 2 - What was your job before joining the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue team?

I was employed by the British Military and then moved to the New Zealand military.

Q.3 - Why do you enjoy working in the Wide Bay and beyond?

From a personal perspective, the job is very rewarding and I love the lifestyle this location enables me to enjoy.

Q.4 - What do you do when you're not on shift, helping to save lives?

Keeping fit, paddle boarding and messing around with motorbikes.

John Kennedy - Air Crew Officer

Q. 1 - When did you start working for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue?

August 2005

Q. 2 - What was your job before joining the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue team?

I am actually a qualified electrician and was working for the then-Burnett Council as the Electrical Service Coordinator.

Q.3 - Why do you enjoy working in the Wide Bay and beyond?

Working to provide assistance to those in our community.

Q.4 - What do you do when you're not on shift, helping to save lives?

I like to go paddling on my surf ski and kayak and I also grow succulents from cuttings.

Brent Malden - Air Crew Officer

Q. 1 - When did you start working for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue?

June 2010

Q. 2 - What was your job before joining the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue team?

Funnily enough and completely unrelated, I worked for the Life Flight Trust in Wellington, NZ.  They operate fixed wing air ambulances and a Westpac Rescue Helicopter across the ditch.

Q.3 - Why do you enjoy working in the Wide Bay and beyond?

It's a great location to work, with fantastic weather, amazing beaches and beautiful scenery.  More importantly, though, I like having the ability to better someone's outcome, by trasnferring them directly to a relevent hospital and in a timely fashion.

Q.4 - What do you do when you're not on shift, helping to save lives?

I try to find time to do things that I enjoy.  Two kids and a puppy keep me busy, but I try to surf when I can, go mountain biking and have recently started to run Ultra Marathons.  (I am chalking that up to a mid-life crisis, or a lack in thought process!)

Shayne White - Air Crew Officer

Q. 1 - When did you start working for RACQ LifeFlight Rescue?

November 2015

Q. 2 - What was your job before joining the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue team?

I was in the Australian Army for 18 years.

Q.3 - Why do you enjoy working in the Wide Bay and beyond?

We respond to a variety of tasks - everything from remote and rural accidents, to winch jobs off the coast, 150km out to sea.  We get to see some of the best parts of the country, all while helping people at a time when they need it the most.

Q.4 - What do you do when you're not on shift, helping to save lives?

I'm married with three kids, so school and sport keep me busy, but when the water is warm enough I like to be in the water.  Surfing, stand up paddle boarding, or snorkeling with the family… I just like being out there.  I also like camping, football and beer... but who doesn't?