Pilot Mitch Vernon and air crewman Garth Snaidero with the RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue chopper.
Pilot Mitch Vernon and air crewman Garth Snaidero with the RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue chopper. Sharyn O'Neill

Daring rescues all part of the service for chopper crew

Chopper crew rescues commercial fisherman in the nick of time

Help flies in after frightening fall on Mt Archer

"THERE'S nowhere to land, and once you're out there, you're committed - and if anything goes wrong you're in the water."

It's a terrifying situation, but it's just another day in the office for Garth Snaidero. He and Mitch Vernon work for the RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue team.

Mr Snaidero has been an air and rescue crewman for the past one and a half years. His most memorable rescues are those out at sea.

"You have to be pretty quick. At the end of the day once you get to the destination if you don't have everything sorted and you're going home, there's another three-hour wait for the person being rescued and sometimes it's life or death situations," he said.

On June 16 he was involved in the rescue of Wayne Sorensen, a commercial fisherman who was suffering a heart attack.

"I was operating the winch . . . we hooked him up to the monitors, put him on a stretcher and winched him back up. His wife called us up later on, to thank us. This was one of those life or death situations," he said.

"Once you're good to go for the next job, you reflect, and it's very satisfying, it gives you a feeling of self-purpose."

Mr Snaidero said they managed risks accordingly to the rescue. 

RACQ CareFlight Rescue helicopter.
RACQ CareFlight Rescue helicopter. RACQ CareFlight Rescue

"Things change on the ground, and you need to be flexible. I'm lucky to never have experienced anything catastrophic," he said.

"We go to operations to who knows where, day and night, to save people's lives. That comes with pressures and you need to be mindful of the patients when you make decisions . . . or if it can put the aircraft or crew at risk."

Mr Snaidero became well known in his rescue role during the January floods.

"We rescued a lot of people throughout that week. You have memorable stuff like that, and there's just your average rescue. But everyday is an adventure you always remember," he said.

He has been in the industry for 11 years but he enjoys the exciting and daring aspects of the rescue team.

"The flying is really tough, because you're not just going from airport to airport, sometimes there's nowhere to land," he said.

I often say to other people, I've never had any trouble getting out of bed in the morning in my whole career

Pilot Mitch Vernon has been part of the team for the past two months but he ranks the satisfaction of saving people as the best part of the job.

"I often say to other people; I've never had any trouble getting out of bed in the morning in my whole career," he said.

The majority of his call outs have been for hospital transfers but one of his more memorable jobs was rescuing 22-year-old Jasmine Henning after she fell off a walking track at Mt Archer.

They had a paramedic and rescue crewman on board, who had to operate the winch to retrieve the woman and take her to the Rockhampton Hospital.

The 48-year-old has had his helicopter licence for 25 years and was inspired to be part of the RACQ rescue team to have an opportunity to give back to the community.

Fast facts:

  • The service was incorporated in December 1995 and started operations on January 26, 1996.
  • It operates 24/7, 365 days.
  • Operates under a five-year rolling service agreement with the Queensland Government.
  • If you would like to donate, go to: http://www.chrs.org.au/donate.


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