Rooftop rescue enhances training

Aircrewman Sergeant Damien Collison-Bryant puts lessons learnt from the Lismore floods disaster into practice in his role as an instructor at the Army Aviation Training Centre.

CAPTION: Aircrewman Sergeant Damien Collison-Bryant stands in front of an MRH-90 Taipan at the Australian Army Aviation Training Centre, Swartz Barracks, Queensland. Story by Carolyn Barnett. Photo by Brad Richardson.

Sergeant Collison-Bryant said there were many lessons learnt assisting the flooded community.

“We are always training for rescues and combat missions,” Sergeant Collison-Bryant said.

“We aim, where possible, to replicate reality and bring those lessons into a training context.”

He said the key difference in rescue operations was they happened fast so there were a lot of unanswered questions.

Has the person been in a helicopter? How will they react to being hoisted into the air?

He said the rooftop rescue of Mark O’Toole and his family in Woodford during Operation Flood Assist last year, was challenging.

The town of Lismore looked like a giant inland sea as a result of the torrential downpour.

Sergeant Collison-Bryant said it was one of the most complex rescue missions he had been involved in.

“There was a church which resembled an island with a lot of residents gathering on these islands with their possessions,” Sergeant Collison-Bryant said.

“Because there was so much water it was somewhat disorientating.

“You couldn’t see any roads; there was just a house with no other geographical reference points.”

Each aircraft was tasked with sectors within the town of Lismore.

From the MRH-90 Taipan, aircrew could see people huddled on the roof of the house.

Sergeant Collison-Bryant said people would be stressed in this type of situation.

“The person being rescued may have lost their belongings,” Sergeant Collison-Bryant said.

“They could also have been exposed to harsh environments.

“In the case of Mark and his family, they had been on the roof overnight and exposed to the weather.”

Corporal Geoffrey Izod was hoisted to the rooftop to establish communications with the family.

There were a lot of obstacles on and around the roof, including a palm tree and an antenna.

After assessing that the only way to get the family off the roof was by hoist, the aircrew safely rescued them.

“It was a really good feeling to know that our team could make a difference and get Mark and his family to safety,” Sergeant Collison-Bryant said.


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