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Lima East multi-agency rescue
A teenage girl taking part in a school adventure camp slipped into a crevice while rock climbing and became wedged, sparking a multi-agency rescue in Lima East.
The incident was called a cave rescue and therefore came under Victoria Police control.
12 September 2013
Brigades: Monbulk, Wodonga, Wangaratta, Yea, Oscar 1, Swanpool, Samaria
On the one hand “what goes in must come out,” says District 23 Operations Officer and Rostered Duty Officer Jamie McLean, but the incident presented access and communication difficulties.
“We had limited access to the girl and there were no local comms,” continues Jamie. “Lima was a black hole – the site was off the grid. We had to proceed with a portable radio on the Vic Fire channel. I was regularly climbing up to a large rock on the top of the hill to give sit reps [situation reports] and liaising with Vic Pol inspectors. A satellite phone and trunking radio came out with the Wangaratta comms vehicle and that sorted our comms issues.”
A media chopper overhead presented further communications problems. “Crews need to use verbal communications for rope control inside the crevice,” says Jamie. “The noise of the aircraft made it difficult to hear so we ordered a no-fly zone and asked the police chopper to communicate that through aircraft radio.
“We had support from the Wodonga hazmat van which carries extra gear. I had called for rope technicians and high-angle rescue crews – we knew we’d need extra bodies for setting up ropes and hauling – and Monbulk was there to support that effort. We didn’t know whose gear was what and it didn’t matter – we were all working together.
“The patient was caught in a very tight wedge but there was no danger of collapse. Ambulance Victoria gave her pain relief and the crews lifted her up slowly and moved her along, then paramedics stabilised her.”
The mine rescue specialists of Oscar 1 made the long journey up from their Bendigo base and helped bring the patient down from the hills to the ambulance at the picnic ground using a stokes basket. Parks Victoria cleared trees and undergrowth as SES, Ambulance Victoria, police and CFA worked together to move her to the air ambulance which flew her to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.
“We had lights there early but we were confident that the system we had in place would get her out before dark,” says Jamie.
“We had an on-site debrief after the event and there were no major issues – just a few little tweaks. We have some different systems that don’t always interlock but all services work well together up here. Locals work well with locals and we’re all on a first-name basis.”
From a CFA perspective, the incident was finally over when Oscar 1 arrived back in their station at 9.14pm.