By 1999, CapRescue was a household name around the Central Queensland community and earning itself a reputation within the medical industry for its fast response times, high standards and efficiency. Confidence in the service led to a boost in income through fundraising by volunteers, sponsorship, community donations and payroll contributions. The board and staff were confident in the support for, and performance of, the service, declaring it financially sound during this period.
A noteworthy donation by the Blackwater No. 1 Lodge mining union branch was a great example of the traction the service had been able to make in just five years. Despite a downturn in their industry and staff cutbacks, the employees donated over $11,600 to CapRescue, by giving just one dollar a week through payroll.
On 20 February, the Minister for Emergency Services, Merri Rose, officially opened our new administration and hangar complex on Canoona Road. Costing about $310,000, the new facility greatly improved our response and turnaround times by including a built-in fuel tank to eliminate the anxious wait for the fuel truck to arrive. This hangar served us well and was still in use up until October 2017.
In early March, CapRescue was tasked to retrieve two injured crew from a stricken trimaran after its mast snapped in heavy seas, piercing the right deck. The dramatic rescue took place 110 km north-east of Yeppoon at 9 am, after the four-man crew sent out a distress signal at 7 am. The two patients: a 48-year-old man with lacerations to his head, and a 43-year-old man showing signs of distress after a 14-hour bout of sea sickness, were both safely winched into the CapRescue helicopter in 25 knot winds and three metre waves. The remaining two boat crew stayed on board the vessel to meet with the Yeppoon Water Police.
Later that year in October, CapRescue was tasked to another water rescue just off Collins Island, near Shoalwater Bay. A Brisbane woman’s catamaran, en route from Townsville to Mooloolaba, had hit a reef and ran aground after its engine failed. The woman, the sole occupant on the catamaran, managed to alert authorities via an EPIRB before collapsing from fatigue—the result of three days drifting off the coast. The skipper and her dog were promptly found and retrieved by the CapRescue crew, with residents on nearby Collins Island offering to help retrieve her belongings from the wreckage and provide her with temporary accommodation.
Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service hangar, officially opened in February 1999.