Not only was 2019 our busiest year yet, with 645 hours and 397 tasks on the board, it also saw two of our long-term pilots reach new heights in their careers.
Our longest serving pilot Chris ‘Bones’ Mann celebrated 10 years with CapRescue. His story began horseback mustering, which he soon tired of and he took to the sky, flying a helicopter across a vast area from The Kimberley and all through Queensland. In 2003, he started as a utility pilot in Gladstone with Marine Helicopters (now Babcock Mission Critical Services). This role included night marine transfers, strip power lines, firefighting, lighthouse works and more. Bones remained in this role until 2009, when he secured his position with CapRescue.
His passion for the service and what it provides to the community is evident. He said the fact that he is responsible for helping save lives and keep communities safe is what he is most passionate about.
While there is an air of anxiousness when our crew arrive at the scene of an accident or rescue, working with a professional and focused team to help someone in need is what it is all about for Bones,
“A positive outcome at the end of the mission is really the greatest reward you could receive”.
It was a motor vehicle accident on the Dawson Highway in the early hours of October that had CapRescue senior pilot Mitch Vernon clock over his 8,000th hour as a rotary-wing aircraft pilot. With the service for more than five years, Mitch has over 30 years’ experience as a professional pilot.
“I have been lucky enough to fly in many diverse areas all around the world—including Antarctica and the Middle East—performing a variety of different tasks such as movie filming, aerial crane, firefighting, offshore, VIP and emergency medical services,” he said.
As senior pilot, Mitch is responsible for day-to-day flight operations. He enjoys the spontaneity of his position, never knowing what is going to happen when the phone rings.
“Although every day and every job are something different, I know that each task provides a lifesaving service to my community—that’s very rewarding.”
On 24 June, shortly after 9 am, Mitch had the opportunity to put his skills once again to the test after being alerted of an EPIRB activation off the Gladstone coast near Rock Cod Shoal. With reports of 14 people on board a vessel that had caught fire, AMSA had tasked CapRescue to attend the incident. As Mitch and the crew approached the scene, they spotted a dinghy that had overturned with multiple people clinging to the hull.
Kevin Alexander, one of those on board MV Norval when it abruptly caught fire, said the whole incident happened relatively quickly, stating that there was just 10 minutes between abandoning ship and the dinghy overturning. After spending almost two hours in the cold water with waves of up to two meters, all 11 men and three crew members were beginning to show signs of exhaustion and hypothermia, with some also suffering minor smoke inhalation.
Rescue crewman Garth Snaidero was promptly winched into the water to retrieve the first patient, a 74-year-old man who was extremely exhausted and showing signs of hypothermia. Seconds after Garth retrieved the first patient from the water, the Gladstone Police boat arrived and swiftly removed the 13 remaining men from the rough sea conditions.
Our onboard medical crew later spoke of the seriousness of the situation and how close those involved were to critical physical harm; stating that an hour longer in those conditions and the men would have perished.
Rescue300 touched down at Stockyard Point during a rescue in September.