Two people swept away by a landslide in a remote area of the Northern Rivers have been saved by local paramedics and Army Reservists from the 41st Battalion, the Royal New South Wales Regiment (41 RNSWR).
CAPTION: Australian Army soldiers from 41st Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment, survey flood devastation near Upper Main Arm during Op Flood Assist 2022. Story by Major Jesse Robilliard.
With Lismore still reeling from record floods, local reservists from 41 RNSWR were door knocking to see if residents needed assistance.
Sergeant Joshua Scott from 41 RNSWR said their afternoon changed dramatically.
“We got the call around 5:00pm, to move to the helicopter landing zone for a pickup and we had to carry 24 hours of rations and camping gear to stay out that night,” Seargant Scott said.
“We were picked by an MRH-90 Taipan helicopter and flown out to the mountains behind Mullumbimby.”
Five reservists from 41 RNSWR were on board the chopper as a result of a local checking on their neighbours, only to discover an elderly woman and middle-aged man had been swept away by a landslide.
“As we were flying in, we realised they weren’t going to be able to land and they started pulling out the winch, winching gear.” Sergeant Scott said.
“We met up with paramedics, and they briefed us and we moved to the area where the patient was, one patient had already been pulled out.”
The reservists were able to help paramedics get the elderly woman onto a civilian rescue helicopter.
Lieutenant Ben Fischer says the male patient was a much more complicated scenario.
“He was up to his neck, they were in the house when the landslide occurred, mud, trees and branches were all around him,” Lieutenant Fischer said.
“A local used a chainsaw to cut some wood to use as a lever, it was as if the man had a wall on him and some dirt.”
Of concern to the paramedics, they didn’t know the extent of the man’s injuries, however Lieutenant Fischer said the reservists and paramedics were able to carefully extract the patient.
“We removed the dirt, we cut the branches, we were then able to free his upper body,” Lieutenant Fischer said.
“It felt good to get him out. He was conscious the entire time, he was of good spirits, he did not complain at all.”
With both patients rescued, the 41 RNSWR reservists spent the night in the mountains before returning to Lismore the next day.
Lieutenant Fischer says for him, the helicopter rescue has been his highlight of Operation Flood Assist 2022.
“I love these kind of operations and being able to give back to the community.”
“The day before we were rescuing people from floodwaters by boat.”