Searches and motor vehicle incidents were among the most common callouts for the busy Bundaberg RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter last year, contributing to a record twelve months for LifeFlight Australia.
In 2022 the Bundaberg RACQ LifeFlight base helped 305 people, costing approximately $7.6 million, at no expense to patients.
Bundaberg's missions contributed to a record calendar year for LifeFlight Australia as a whole, with the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue and LifeFlight SGAS helicopters, air ambulance jets, critical care doctors, flight nurses and flight paramedics coming to the aid of 6,978 people.
LifeFlight group head of operations Yvette Lutze said 2022 demonstrated how indispensable the aeromedical service was to the Wide Bay-Burnett region and regional Queensland.
“These are not just numbers to us, they’re actually people,” she said.
“It’s someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter, and they’re at their most vulnerable. That matters to us.
“They don’t have a choice in how they’re transported and it’s up to us to provide them the critical care that they need in the safest possible way.
“It’s not something that we take lightly here at LifeFlight.”
LifeFlight Australia was able to achieve these record results despite COVID-19 impacting staffing levels, aeromedical crew availability and operational capability more in 2022 than any other year of the pandemic, making last year the most challenging in the service’s proud history of providing vital rescue and retrieval services.
The Bundaberg crews clocked up 356 flying hours, with a major portion of that being spent on 36 wide-scale searches, due to the chopper's specialist search capabilities.
Chopper crews were called into action 31 times to respond to motor vehicle incidents including those involving motorists and motorcyclists in crashes both on and off road.
The service’s naming rights sponsor, RACQ, has urged drivers to avoid the fatal five while travelling to reduce the number of serious crashes on roads in 2023 across the Wide Bay-Burnett.
“Last year, we had 299 people tragically killed on Queensland roads; it was our worst road toll in more than a decade,” RACQ spokesperson Lauren Cooney said.
“We know that overwhelmingly the fatal five account for so many of these fatal crashes: that's speeding, drink and drug driving, distraction, fatigue, and not wearing a seatbelt.
“When you are behind the wheel you need to make sure that all your efforts are being put into getting to your destination safely.”
Airlifts for seriously unwell people, needing a higher level of care at hospitals in larger centres, made up the remainder of the top five mission types for the Bundaberg RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crews.
Catamaran rescue a big mission in 2022
One of the many 2022 jobs that demonstrated the expertise of Bundaberg's highly trained crews was the skilled search mission for three stranded boaties whose catamaran had sunk, north of Bundaberg, back in February.
The Bundaberg crews also played a major role in the aerial response to the flood emergencies in early 2022, performing numerous rescues including winching a young girl, a couple and their four dogs to safety after their home was cut off by extensive flooding in January.
The mission was one of 11 winch rescues the local crews performed in the past year.
“The crews were so busy over that period. Our bases are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Ms Lutze said.
“That put us in a position to respond, at any hour of the day or night, to the emergency as it was unfolding.
“The crews were going out, they were conducting things such as searches, rescues, winching and medical transport operations.
“There were people who no one actually knew were missing.
“One of the great things about our service and the helicopters is the agility of our helicopter. It can get to places that other aircraft or means of transport can’t, for example, a car or a boat.”
Top five mission categories for Bundaberg Rescue helicopter:
- Cardiac – 41 missions
- Search – 36 missions
- Motor vehicle incidents – 31
- Neurological – 22
- Serious illness / infection – 20
RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopters across the state performed 1,939 missions.
The service is funded by a combination of a service agreement with the Queensland Government, community fundraising, the sponsorship of RACQ and profit-for-purpose enterprises.