13th, May, 2022
The regions Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service is launching its annual End of Financial Year (EOFY) Appeal and none could be more critical given the impact that the recent Lismore floods have had on the Service’s operations with water inundating the Lismore Base at the peak of the flooding.
Such was the extent of the damage, it is anticipated that the Service will continue to operate from a temporary facility at the Ballina Airport for 3-5 more months as repair and rebuild is undertaken.
Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service CEO Richard Jones OAM remarked ‘Despite the challenges, our crews, in partnership with medical teams from NSW Ambulance and NSW Health, performed over 50 missions during the peak of the flood emergency’.
“I would also like to say to all residents of the Northern Rivers that you have been firmly in the hearts and minds of our staff, and I hope you are in the process of a positive recovery.”
On the morning of the flood, crews on shift departed the Lismore Base and could see their own vehicles, the Base itself and the surrounding community succumbing to the rising waters. It was less than 500m from their Base that the first rescue took place, beginning one of the busiest weeks in the Service’s history.
Nathan Scard, Lismore Base Manager and Pilot was on Base as the disaster unfolded.
“It is hard to put it into words just how overwhelming the sight of seeing that much water coming up from all directions was for everyone on shift at the time. It hit home very quickly just how much trouble the town and region was going to be in once the team was airborne”.
“Our thoughts quickly turned to the situation at hand and the challenge of relocating our operations to Ballina to enable us to continue to respond to the numerous tasking requests that were coming in”.
“Being on the front line, side by side with our community, and the many emergency service personnel who have worked so hard since the disaster started, it has never been so humbling to know that the donation support we receive allows us to respond in such desperate times”.
The Service also suffered the loss of its Helicopter Op Shop in the Lismore CBD, a valuable fundraising vehicle for the Service, flood waters inundated the shop, going past the height of the ceiling and into the roof cavity.
Mr Jones commented “The Shop was operated entirely by volunteers, and we hope that one day we can find new premises to open again”.
Donations to the Appeal will remain local at one of the Service’s three Bases in Belmont, Tamworth and Lismore, which service close to 2 million residents in the Northern half of NSW in communities north of the Hawkesbury through to the Queensland border and throughout the New England North West.
Since March 2020, the Service has responded from its bases in Newcastle, Tamworth and Lismore to almost 3,000 calls for help and in every instance, they have needed to take extra precautions to care for patients and their aircraft crews due to the ever-lingering presence of COVID.
“It has been an unbelievable period for so many people who live throughout the regions that our bases serve and support. I hope that everyone who has donated to help our Service in the past, feel just as proud as I do of the remarkable efforts made by every person in our Rescue Helicopter family delivering the lifesaving support that our community has needed during these trying times” said Mr Jones.
“We thank everyone for the support that helps us to stand side by side with the community during these trying times. As a local charity, I would also like to say a special thank you in advance to those who are able to help us once again with a donation, large or small, during our appeal,” Jones concluded.
The community can make donations to the Service’s Appeal at rescuehelicopter.com.au/appeal or by FREECALL 1800 155 155.