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Hiker’s Mountain Rescue

Kim and Pete Creigh set off on the adventure of a lifetime, caravanning around Australia. They planned for a few nights in the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran as both are experienced bushwalkers.

They set off on a four hour walk into the Warrumbungle National Park – carrying some food and water as well as an EPIRB and a first aid kit. Their plans were to see the famous ‘bread knife’, a hike considered medium grade and regarded as one of the best walks in NSW, with views of the park’s iconic rock formations. Kim and Pete hiked through the valley and up a narrow trail with other families. They stopped for morning tea with the group and amidst the chat, ironically one dad joked about the location and needing the Westpac Helicopter.

By the time the group reached the halfway point, Pete had become unwell, experiencing symptoms of dizziness, vomiting and loss of vision.

They sat for a while, with Pete given water in the hope that he may be well enough to continue on however his condition didn’t improve so rather than continuing, Kim and Pete decided to turn around and take a slow hike back.

On the walk back, the pair stopped to rest, with Pete feeling progressively more unwell and as Kim took a photo he pessimistically commented “…this will be the last photo of Peter Creigh taken alive”.

After another rest, Pete was looking worse. With the path becoming increasing challenging, it was at this point that Pete was unable to continue and Kim called 000. Paramedics and the local rescue team from Coonabarabran and Baradine were both over half an hour away, so the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was tasked.

In preparation for the arrival of rescue helicopter, Kim laid out the space blanket for easier visibility of their location while on the phone with the rescue crew. Pete luckily was reached sooner than expected by the local team and shortly after the rescue helicopter arrived.

“From the moment they arrived it was like clockwork,” Kim said.

After the helicopter’s critical care medical team were winched into the scene, the rescue helicopter landed at a nearby staging area, as Pete was assessed, treated and stabilised for flight. Upon return, Pete was stretcher winched into the aircraft and escorted inflight to John Hunter Hospital by the medical team.

Kim praised how efficient and calm the crew were and their ability to work effectively with the local teams throughout the ordeal, recounting how the crew later told Kim that she was the calmest person they had ever met.

“I just had to be calm to keep Pete calm, as we just didn’t know what was wrong,” Kim explained.

With Pete safely airlifted to Newcastle, Kim packed up the caravan and made the long drive back to the John Hunter Hospital. Pete was treated and monitored at the John Hunter for six days, where he underwent a battery of testing.

As the saying goes, ‘you can’t keep a good man down…’ Pete and Kim have continued to travel Australia and hike harder graded trails, continuing to take photos along the way.

While Pete doesn’t remember the experience, Kim said “…even now it is four years on, it feels like yesterday”.

Kim and Pete express their gratitude for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and crew from that day.

“We can’t express how grateful we are for the Service and the team on the aircraft that day. I will always think of the journey it’s on when I hear it go overhead and know it is changing someone else’s lives as it did ours,” Kim concluded.