With the support of our major sponsor, the Westpac Banking Corporation, we commenced a second helicopter rescue service on the NSW South Coast in the summer of 2010. Initially, it was a daylight service over the summer months, providing support to the volunteer, council and statutory emergency services but with State Government support, it has already become a daily operation, year round.
Our service area boundaries will be Shoalhaven Heads (in the Shoalhaven Council LGA) to the north, and the Victorian border to the south (in the Bega Valley Shire LGA). Whilst core operations will be focused on the marine and coastal environment, the aircraft, equipment and crew can operate at any location inland.
The coastline of south-east NSW is predominantly rugged cliffs and rock ledges, occasionally inter-dispersed with sandy beaches. The area is well known for its remote locations and rescue services often have difficulty in accessing most locations along the seaboard. The NSW south coast is a well known SLSA “black-spot”. A number of drownings have occurred in this region over the years.
Operations focus on proactive surf patrols and reactive callouts from 13SURF (the Surf Lifesaving Emergency Response System) and other agencies.
Surf patrols are undertaken on weekends and public holidays during the summer holiday period. Emergency Callouts are undertaken exactly the same way as the Westpac Life Saver operates in Sydney. There is immediate activation from Police, AusSAR or the Surf Life Saving Emergency Response System. Other requests for assistance are confirmed with NSW Police or Surf Lifesaving prior to departure.
Operations will be based at Moruya Airport and we recognise the wonderful support of the Eurobodalla Shire Council. Whilst coastal rescue operations are our primary function, our service is very capable of any tasking requests for inland responses as the nearest helicopters are based at Canberra and Albion Park. The Service commences duty at 9.00 am each day and remains available until 7.00 pm in the evening.
The helicopter acquired for the south coast service is a BK117-B2 twin engine helicopter which has a long and proud history around the world as an excellent rescue helicopter. The Westpac Life Saver has used this type of aircraft for the last 13 years. The South Coast aircraft’s call sign is Lifesaver 23.
It will carry a crew of three and it has the capability of carrying an additional specialist crew, such as an ambulance paramedic, doctor or police officer. It is capable of carrying two patients.