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Cave rescue near Buxton
While much of the state is preparing for the bushfire season, technical rescue brigades continue their year-round work rescuing people from difficult-to-access locations.
By Station Officer Brad Trewavis
On Saturday 21 November, CFA crews worked tirelessly in difficult conditions to free a bushwalker trapped in a cave in the Cathedral Range near Buxton. At about 11am that day, a group of walkers set out for the top of Mount Sugarloaf via the Wells Cave track. A feature of this walk is Wells Cave that people must squeeze through to continue the walk. Unfortunately, one of the walkers became wedged in the squeeze section of the cave and couldn’t be freed by his friends.
At midday CFA responded to a ‘male trapped in rocks’ Wells Cave track Buxton.
Buxton, Marysville, Marysville SES and District 8 Rescue were responded to a confined space rescue. Further information from Vicfire to the crew leader of the Dandenong high angle rescue team (HART) was a male trapped in between rocks at Wells Cave. This type of rescue is a land rescue and VicPol is the control agency with SES and CFA being support agencies.
The Dandenong HART notified VicPol Search and Rescue (SAR) via the Rescue Coordination Centre who responded to the rescue.
The District 8 technical rescue duty coordinator also responded Monbulk steep angle rescue team for extra support.
The Buxton tanker arrived on scene and provided excellent information to the oncoming rescue crews as to the situation.
An initial work back of under control was placed by the Buxton lieutenant.
When Dandenong HART and Monbulk rescue arrived on scene it was decided that the HART and Monbulk crew leaders should walk up the track to the patient while the rest of the team staged the gear for the walk in. The walk to the patient was about 45 minutes up a steep, rough track that involved a section of near vertical rock scrambling.
The patient was found wedged in the cave about four metres from the top exit point, along with an Ambulance Victoria paramedic and two SES members. In consultation with SES and AV, HART came up with the plan to use a mechanical advantage (pulley system) attached to a high anchor. An improvised tube tape harness was used to secure the patient. This information was transferred to VicPol SAR, who endorsed the plan.
When the rigging was complete and checked, it was decided to wait for a MICA paramedic to arrive prior to extricating the patient to check for any crush injuries.
VicPol SAR, Monbulk steep angle team and MICA arrived and the all-clear was given for any crush injuries. CFA HART, SES and search and rescue worked together to operate the pulley system to extricate the patient, who was surprisingly upbeat, from the squeeze. He was able to walk out of the cave and was escorted down the track.
Monbulk steep angle rescue team provided a rope rescue system through one section of the track where there was a 10-metre section of near-vertical rock that had to be climbed down. The rope rescue system provided added security to the man as he climbed down.
At the car park, AV assessed the patient and transported him to hospital.
This successful rescue demonstrated a great working relationship between all agencies when dealing with an all-hazards approach.
VicPol SAR, Dandenong HART, Monbulk steep angle team, Buxton and Marysville brigades and Marysville SES all worked well together to provide a successful outcome for the man trapped in the cave.
When brigades are faced with a similar incident, call for high angle rescue and VicPol Search and Rescue for any land-based rescue.