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Rescue all in a day’s work

A job on Fraser Island after a tobogganing crash.
A job on Fraser Island after a tobogganing crash.

AS AN aircrewman, Jerm Cutelli is responsible for co-ordinating each mission flown by a typical four-man rescue helicopter crew.

He can find himself operating a winch to rescue people out of high seas, flying patients from hospital to hospital or landing on the Bruce Hwy after a serious crash.

Mr Cutelli has spent the past seven years flying with the RACQ CareFlight Rescue service, formally known as the AGL Action Rescue Helicopter.

Based on the Sunshine Coast, Mr Cutelli has flown hundreds of missions to Fraser Island, Hervey Bay Hospital and other emergencies across the Fraser Coast.

He is among the emergency services responders that are called to help the region during a disaster and those the Fraser Coast Chronicle will be profiling this flood season.

Mr Cutelli's days are unpredictable and can have him travelling anywhere from the Fraser Coast to northern New South Wales.

"You just don't know until the phone rings," he said.

"Our hours are set by people's injuries."

Most of their work is made up of transferring patients from regional hospitals to get more specialist care in Brisbane, Mr Cutelli said.

He remembers the rescue of a three-man crew off the racing yacht Ausmaid in 2008 as the most difficult task he has faced in the past seven years.

"It was pelting rain, 40-50 knots, eight metre seas," Mr Cutelli said.

On the Fraser Coast, beachside crashes of tourist-laden four-wheel drives were common until last year.

"We'd get there and there would just be patients everywhere," Mr Cutelli said.

He praised new laws that regulate the number of people allowed in each vehicle for reducing serious crashes on the island.

It takes only 30 minutes for the crew to fly from Sunshine Coast to Fraser Island, so the RACQ helicopter often becomes the first port of call if someone needs to be taken off the island quickly.

The service has flown to the Fraser Coast, including Fraser Island, 60 times since July this year.

In the 2012/13 financial year, the service flew to the Fraser Coast 157 times, including 58 missions to Fraser Island.

There were 13 flood rescues, eight search and rescue missions, 12 traffic crashes and 61 hospital transfers.

These missions become expensive very quickly as the helicopter costs $3500 each hour to run.

Mr Cutelli said a major part of their job was fundraising to cover that cost.

"That is one of our secondary jobs," he said. "We rely heavily on the community."

Visit careflightrescue.com to find out for about the service or to donate.

RACQ CareFlight

Three helicopters are in service across the Sunshine Coast and Bundaberg, including a backup. Another three operate from the Gold Coast and Toowoomba.

Each mission is tasked with a typical four-man crew which includes a pilot, aircrewman, paramedic and a doctor. If winching is required, a rescue officer can be added to the crew.

Topics:  racq careflight rescue helicopter rescue



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