Record number of Easter missions for Westpac rescue chopper crews

JOB LIST: The Easter long weekend was the busiest in "quite some time" for Westpac Life Saver's rescue helicopters. Crews were called to 12 search and rescue missions in five days, including seven between southern Sydney and Eden.

JOB LIST: The Easter long weekend was the busiest in "quite some time" for Westpac Life Saver's rescue helicopters. Crews were called to 12 search and rescue missions in five days, including seven between southern Sydney and Eden.

A rescue near Robertson and the search for a missing man at Bass Point were among a record number of missions undertaken by Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter crews during the Easter long weekend. 

The service’s two helicopters, based at Moruya and La Perouse, flew 12 search and rescue missions across a five-day period between April 13 and April 17.

The callouts, in support of other agencies including police and paramedics, spanned an area from the Central Coast south to the Victorian border.

Of the 12 missions, seven were carried out between the Royal National Park, north of Wollongong, and Eden. 

Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter chief executive Stephen Leahy said the Easter period was “the busiest long weekend we’ve had for quite some time”.

“We’ve had rescue missions going the full length of our operational area,” Mr Leahy said.

One of those missions saw Westpac’s La Perouse-based Lifesaver 21 helicopter assist in the rescue of a woman who fell about three metres at Belmore Falls near Robertson on Easter Monday.

The woman, believed to be in her 20s, was taken to Wollongong Hospital with suspected ankle injuries.

The Moruya-based Lifesaver 23 responded to a distress call from a yacht adrift 2.5 nautical miles east of Wallagoot Lake, near Merimbula, late on Easter Saturday.

MITCH’S MISSION HIS NUMBER ONE

Mitchel Van der Meulen.

Mitchel Van der Meulen.

Westpac Life Saver’s newest rescue crew member was put through his paces during the rescue off Merimbula.

In fading light, 22-year-old Mitchel Van der Meulen was winched to an elderly man from the yacht. A second person was assisted by a Marine Rescue crew.

Mr Van der Meulen, from Tathra, has been at the Moruya base for two months and has since undertaken hours of static, in-flight and theory training.

Putting that training into action was “great”, he said.

“That’s kind of why I wanted to get into this, once you’ve got all this stuff in your head and it comes to the point you need to do it, you just do it, you don’t need to think about it,” he said.

Mr Leahy said Mr Van der Meulen’s first job was challenging.

“It was towards the end of the day, so light was fading, he’s several kilometres offshore, he’s being winched onto a moving target and [dealing with] an elderly gentleman who’s rather ill,” he said.

“His training really kicked in.”

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