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Byron Shire
May 6, 2021

Rescue chopper callout a crucial reminder

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Lionel Anderson has been a caravan repairer for 35 years and has been exhibiting at the 4WD caravan and camping show from its very beginning.


Photo and story Melissa Hargraves

It was a reminder of just how critical the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter (WLSRH) service is.

The chopper’s paramedic crew were about to perform a winch display at the Lismore 4WD Caravan and Camping Show yesterday when they were suddenly tasked to a motorcycle accident at Nymboida.

The patient then had to be flown to Coffs Harbour for medical attention.

The 16th Lismore 4WD Caravan and Camping Show was previously postponed due to bad weather so organisers were relieved when sun shone yesterday and brought the punters out on the final day of the three-day event.

This is the first time in 16 years that rain had deferred the major fundraiser for WLSRH, which given the area that we are in, is not so bad.

Fundraising manager for WLSRH, Zeke Huish, told Echonetdaily ‘that even though we had to postpone we have been overwhelmed by the support of the exhibitors to stay with us for the extra few weeks until we could hold it.

‘Some of these exhibitors travel around the country doing this so we were very fortunate they were able to stay on.’

Exhibitor numbers at the Lismore event were up by 10 per cent this year covering everything from caravans to thermal cooking appliances.

Solar kits have become very popular allowing free campers to stay off the grid. Campers can choose to have panels installed on top of their vans or standalone portable kits.

George is a solar panel exhibitor who travelled down from the Gold Coast to be part of the show.

‘People are starting to get used to solar energy, they have tried it on their houses, they understand it and know how good solar is,’ he told Echonetdaily.

Lionel Anderson (pictured) has been a caravan repairer for 35 years and has been exhibiting at the 4WD caravan and camping show since its conception.

Mr Anderson was the sole exhibitor paying homage to the caravan of yesteryear with his completely renovated 1949 Homemaker.

Mr Anderson was exhibiting new caravans alongside his retro model and told Echonetdaily that ‘nine out of 10 people who walk in here will go straight to the old one for a look’.

Event goers were treated with an opportunity to operate a flight simulator of a Dauphin eurocopter, which is what the service uses.

Tom is a rescue crew officer who has been with the helicopter service for over two years and was guiding the participants.

Trained staff

‘I mostly work on rescues tasked to the water,’ he told Echonetdaily. ‘We have trained medical staff on board but I am trained in first aid, advanced resuscitation and spinal management.

‘We have a contract with the NSW Health Department which provides us with doctors and paramedics. Having them available increases our response time as we need to wait for them if they are not there.’

Recent funding of $2.2m from the NSW government to provide financial support for the Lismore Base Hospital and Lismore Ambulance Station for the 24/7 availability of doctors and paramedics has created misperception that the funds were a direct contribution to the local helicopter rescue service.

Mr Huish from WLSRH told Echonetdaily ‘the service stresses that we welcome the support of this funding to make these doctors and paramedics available for the missions in the region, but many people thought we, the Westpac helicopter, were getting the funds.

‘As a charity that message can be detrimental as we received no financial benefit from that equation.’

Reports that the same funding would go toward a super base in the area were also denied by Mr Huish.

‘We won’t receive any of that funding and our heli-base will stay exactly how it is.’

It costs $6.7m a year to operate the rescue helicopter service and the community raises almost 70 per cent of those costs.

The local chopper service covers from Tweed Heads down to Nambucca Heads and inland to Glen Innes and Inverell, an area of 40,000 square miles.

Three days of appeal are coming up and the community is being asked to get behind. Friday August 2 is Chopper Day, an awareness campaign, so dress in red and yellow and look out for donation buckets.

What looks set to take off is Chopper Coffee where cafes around the region have signed up to serve takeaway coffees in red and yellow cups.

WLSRH communications officer Therese Schier told Echonetdaily ‘for a bit of fun we are asking people to take photos of their coffee cups in weird and crazy places and put it up on our Facebook page. We know of one coffee cup that will be photographed in Paris.’

For more info go to http://www.chopperday.com.au/events/chopper-coffee

Saturday August 3 is the open day which has ran in past years at the Lismore heli-base from 9.30am to 1.30pm which is a wonderful day to get inside the helicopter and have a go at being winched.

Sunday August 4 is a new event called the Rescue Rumble to be held at The Pocket in Billinudgel. The event is a 5km mobile course with 35 obstacles for all levels of fitness. There will be challenges against times of the heli rescue crew or simply challenge yourself.

For more info go to http://www.helirescue.com.au/events/helicopter-events.html

All monies raised locally go to the local helicopter rescue service.


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