A team of specialist Illawarra paramedics has been praised after saving the life of an abseiler who was almost literally hanging by a thread of rope above a 60-metre drop.
The daring rescue effort - headed by Illawarra-based Special Casualty Access Team paramedic Wayne Cannon - was co-ordinated after reports a Queanbeyan man was in trouble after scaling a 90-metre cliff at a popular abseiling spot, The Big Hole, at Braidwood on Friday afternoon.
Emergency services - including Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Police, Ambulance Service of NSW, and Southcare helicopter - were alerted after the 28-year-old's friend climbed out of the cave and raised the alarm at a farmhouse.
Ambulance Special Casualty Access Team paramedics were sent from their aeromedical base at Illawarra Regional Airport, Albion Park - the team involving paramedics Mr Cannon, Jason Watson, pilot Robert Hill, crewman Nathan Haythorpe and specialist doctor Mathew Bragg, in an Ambulance Rescue Helicopter.
The mission became a matter of life and death when they learned the man's rope had sheared against the sharp cliff edge, around 30 metres down.
By the time they arrived at 5.20pm, the man had been hanging on the rope for three hours and was in danger of developing "hang syndrome" which can cut the circulation to the legs.
Mr Cannon, who co-ordinated the emergency response and abseiled to the man's rescue, said the operation was high pressure and high risk.
"Knowing that his rope was frayed and potentially he is hanging on [by a thread], it was life and death to get down to him," Mr Cannon said.
"He was 60 metres up from the bottom, so he would've plummeted another 50 metres had his rope broken, and every time he moved or bounced or his rope twisted it rubbed against the cliff edge, which had the potential to sever the rope.
"It was in a horrendous condition - it was at its end."
The rescue was complicated by the dwindling light and the fact Mr Cannon had to take extra care not to accidentally kick the man's rope or place any weight on him.
Within minutes, Mr Cannon reached the man and placed him in a "quick draw", before disconnecting his equipment and attaching him to his own harness.
"He had a lot to say and I can't repeat it, but basically he just said 'Thank God you're here' and looking into his eyes it was just fear in his eyes," he said.
Yesterday Mr Cannon praised the rescue effort as a whole.
"The Special Casualty Access Team is extensively trained in this area, all of our services were working together and our pilot and crewmen did an absolutely outstanding job," he said.