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Rescue at Beechworth Gorge
A visit to Beechworth Gorge proved to be life changing for a father and his son who, following an accident, had to be lifted out of the gorge during a six-hour rescue.
By David Box
On Monday afternoon, 30 December, a page was received by Beechworth, Stanley and Mount Beauty brigades to assist Ambulance Victoria with a high-angle recue of a father and son who had fallen at Beechworth Gorge.
On arrival, the Beechworth captain set up a control point, and arranged for the tourist road to be blocked. It wasn’t long before SES, Ambulance Victoria and police were on scene. Mount Beauty Rescue, Mount Beauty FCV (field command vehicle) and Stanley tanker had left their stations and set off en route to the Beechworth Gorge control.
Despite falling a remarkable and frightening distance and suffering suspected broken bones and fractures, the pair were still conscious. However, with them now located around 200 metres from where they needed to be to get to their waiting ambulances, distance posed a challenge that was only made harder by the terrain. The granite rock gorge is characterised by huge boulders, steep drop-offs, assorted bush and vegetation in nature’s random arrangements. This made for some very cautious descents and ascents by all the rescuers on foot as they made their way to both patients.
It was quickly ascertained that an air lift with winch was the most practical option for a casualty extraction; however, this was to prove unsuccessful in the weather conditions.
Mount Beauty FCV with the rest of the rescue team arrived at Gorge control at 5.20pm, at which time they were guided to the on-ground rescue point. While the Mount Beauty high-angle rescue squad discussed and then put their agreed plans into practice, a page was put out to the local brigade for more manpower to assist with the hauling of gear and ropes.
With both patients stabilised by the many paramedics in attendance and additional support arriving on scene, it was time for the rescue crew (including the combined resources of more than 50 personnel from Beechworth, Wodonga, West Wodonga, Stanley, Beechworth SES, Mount Beauty CFA and other rescue volunteers) to haul them out one at a time by roped stretcher.
A two-stage lift began at 8.30pm with personnel coordinated en masse to use the manual roped highdraulics. Both victims were first brought up about one third of the distance before rope rigs and people were re-set for the final and longest lift. This brought the pair to within 30 metres of the road and their waiting ambulances at the top.
This combined emergency services coordinated response effort was completed by 10.30pm. With both casualties now on their way to Wangaratta hospital, the Gorge control was demobilised.
It was mentioned to me on the job that "rescues of this magnitude don’t happen all that often, but to have everything as practised come together with each of the emergency teams combining and committed to the task at hand was brilliant".
What was a huge task in a difficult and challenging situation turned out to be very positive result for all the emergency service personnel who attended. Whether they were on the end of a rope, toting equipment, or assisting in any way, all can all be assured that each contribution led to a successful result – they should all feel the satisfaction of a job well done.
Photo courtesy of the Border Mail.