Aircrew from Navy’s 816 Squadron assisted in a rescue, winching a woman and her two children to safety from flood waters at their home in Werrington, NSW, as part of Operation Flood Assist.
CAPTION: Leading Seamen Aircrew Michael Bennet (left) and Leading Seamen Aircrew Liam Sulley at 816 Squadron at HMAS Albatross, Nowra, after completing their rescue mission during Operation Flood Assist 2022. Story by Lieutenant Nancy Cotton. Photo by Leading Seaman Ryan Tascas.
The aircrew based at HMAS Albatross in Nowra, were on duty for the night ready to respond to NSW State Emergency Service (SES) requests for search and rescue. They received the call around 3:30am on March 4, that they were required.
While the aircrew discussed their rescue plan, the maintenance crew prepared the MH-60R aircraft to ensure their team were ready for departure.
Hoist Operator Leading Seaman Liam Sulley said as they approached the house they could see SES members in a boat communicating with the people inside the house but they couldn’t reach them.
“We knew there were two adults and two children and expected to see them on the roof or on a balcony so we worked out a plan to get Michael down on the line so he could go inside and locate them.
“Knowing we had children to rescue we sent him down with the new child rescue capsule (CRC) – a new piece of kit we have been training to use – and it worked really well,” Leading Seaman Sulley said.
Leading Seaman Michael Bennet said as he was lowered down to the house, he was gauging the height of the water from the washing line in the yard and knew it was waist height and rising.
“As I went into the backdoor of the house, I think the family were quite surprised to see me standing there,” Leading Seaman Bennet said.
“I explained what I was going to do and I took the youngest child up first in the CRC.
“On the way up to the aircraft I was talking and reassuring her.”
Once Liam secured her in the aircraft returned to rescue the second child.
“Their dad was staying with the house so it was just the mother we took next. They hugged each other and I winched her up to see her kids,” he said.
“Everyone was in good spirits but you could sense the relief when she was back with her children.
“As we opened the capsules, their little faces they were just beaming with smiles, it was really uplifting,” Leading Seaman Bennet said.
With the support of the SES, a safe landing zone had been identified in a nearby paddock for the crew to land and place the family into the care of emergency services.
Commanding Officer 816 Squadron, Commander Lee Pritchard said he was very proud of the massive team effort that night.
“I am delighted that our training and equipment has been used to support the community and seeing the new child rescue capsules being used for such an important cause is great,” Commander Pritchard said.
The crew prepare and train continuously for emergency scenarios and although they assisted in rescues from the 2020 bushfire emergency, this was their first flood evacuation.
“Our training just kicks in, we are mission focused and we execute as best we can as a team,” Leading Seaman Sulley said.
“We’re on continuous tasking for the floods so we got back, debriefed what went well, what we could do differently and passed on relevant information to the oncoming crew so the Squadron can continuously improve and perform better every time.
“Despite the unfortunate circumstances we’re all just really happy to be able to step in and help the community and do what we train to do.”