AGL Rescue Helicopters, first to arrive, last to leave

One of the many winch rescues - Images supplied by the AGL Action Rescue Helicopter Service
One of the many winch rescues – Images supplied by the AGL Action Rescue Helicopter Service

A week ago today, 18 rescue helicopters swarmed over the flood stricken streets of North Bundaberg, winching hundreds from their rooftops to refuge.
What many don’t realise, is that by then the region’s own AGL Action Rescue Helicopters had already saved dozens of lives. Braving atrocious weather in the wake of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, the AGL Action Rescue Helicopters were the only air assets able to get through from the south to begin the rescue effort three days earlier.
For eight days, the Action Rescue crews worked tirelessly to save more than 100 people aged from just seven days to 92 years. They winched families stranded on the roofs of their inundated homes, they rescued people left clinging to trees as the flood waters roared past, the evacuated the elderly and medical patients from hospitals and nursing homes, always putting their community ahead of themselves. Bundaberg Pilot Peter Potroz’s home was completely cut-off and his outer-lying buildings inundated while he was in the air saving others from a similar fate.
The not-for-profit Rescue Service committed its own Bundaberg hangar to the rescue effort, becoming a triage point for 150 hospital evacuees and the staging point for the army’s black-hawk helicopters and personnel.
The Service’s engineers worked ’round the clock, foregoing their Australian Day long weekend to ensure all three AGL Action Rescue Helicopters were committed to the effort. One had been due for its 300 hours service.
The AGL Action Rescue Helicopter Service is the state’s busiest Community Helicopter Provider and second only to the Queensland Government’s EMQ Helicopter in Brisbane – but during the flood crisis crews flew in excess of 83 hours to execute dozens of life saving rescues – a figure normally flown once every month.
In the first two days alone the Service’s “Rescue 511” flew 1600 kilometres, saving families in the outer lying communities of Bundaberg, the Fraser Coast, Gladstone, Gympie, Maryborough, and North and South Burnett.
And while the other rescue helicopter’s left the region last week, the AGL Action Rescue Helicopter remains in Bundaberg, assisting the community as it moves into recovery mode, there for its people still in need of an emergency medical and rescue helicopter.
In fact across its fleet of three helicopters AGL Action Rescue supports 700,000 people across a region reaching 100,000 square kilometres and stretching north to 1770, south to Redcliffe and from Kilcoy to Fraser Island and beyond.
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