PHOTOS: Rescue chopper the centre of attention at Community Day
FAMILIES were handed a rare opportunity on the weekend when the RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service flew into town.
Usually a peaceful field of green, Memorial Park transformed into a rather impressive spectacle yesterday morning for the Gladstone Community Day hosted by RACQ Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service.
Lining the perimeter of the green expanse were stalls representing various Gladstone groups including police, paramedics, fire- fighters, State Emergency Service, volunteer marine rescuers, hit 93.5 and the Rotary Club of Gladstone.
And at the centre of it all, surrounded by fellow Emergency Services, stood the bright yellow and blue rescue service chopper.
Aircrew officer Shaun Pearce said the number of families who came to the day out was "great".
"We're kept in the air by a lot of fundraisers," Mr Pearce said.
He said the event was all about encouraging members of the public to see what kind of service the rescue service provided.
"They get to interact with the crew and see who we are and what we do," he said.
"They also have the chance to make a donation which helps us a lot."
The excitement and intensity that came with working for the RACQ rescue service was not new to Mr Pearce.
He worked as an air crewman in the Australian Defence Force for eight years prior to joining the RACQ rescue service in April.
He said his role in the military included operating door guns, looking after the balance of the aircraft, winching if required and helping the pilot.
"It's a bit of excitement but it's just become second nature too," he said when asked about the work on the RACQ chopper.
"I do this because it's about making a difference, helping the community and saving lives."
Mr Pearce told The Observer his rescue team had been the first on scene when reports the fishing trawler, Dianne, was sinking, came through.
"We were not even 1.5 miles away, on our way to rescue a man who was stuck on his roof due to the floods in the Boyne Valley," he said.
"We were diverted and basically flew into the eye of the storm.
"A guy on a surfboard nearby actually went and saved the poor bloke instead."
Mr Pearce said he had been on at least four searches related to the recent trawler trawler tragedy and the missing fishermen.
He said once the Community Day concluded, the chopper and crew on the ground at Memorial Park would take off and start another search for the four men still missing.
"It's tragic and it's affected everybody to some degree," Mr Pearce said.
"In those quiet times you have to yourself, you spare a thought for them and their families."
As a father to two sons (15 and 13) and the husband to a "very supportive wife", the aircrew officer said he could not help but put himself in the shoes of the missing fishermen's friends and loved ones.