The Bundaberg-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crew was tasked with a record 410 missions during 2023 – a 52% increase on the previous year.
In the space of just a few days crews attended four offshore rescues in 2023 making it a memorable year for Queensland’s leading aeromedical organisation.
The crews helped 262 people across a range of needs, including motor vehicle accidents, a dingo attack on K’gari, jellyfish stings and a tractor roll-over – all in the organisation’s 25th year of service to the Wide Bay-Burnett Region.
The Bundaberg crews clocked up 700 flying hours, with 76 wide-scale searches – up 90% on the previous year.
Chopper crews were called into action 32 times to respond to motor vehicle incidents, including those involving motorists and motorcyclists.
LifeFlight Australia Chief Operations Officer Lee Schofield said the high number and diverse nature of the rescues and medical aid demonstrated the importance of the service and its impact on communities.
“The sheer volume and complexity of the missions just goes to show how indispensable LifeFlight’s aeromedical service is in the Bundaberg Region,” he said.
“When you look at the circumstances and scale of the operations over the past 12 months, the life-saving capability of the organisation has really shone.
“Often our crews are called on in the middle of the night to airlift patients in remote and precarious places and transport them safely to hospitals.
“I am incredibly proud of our staff and their efforts to deliver world class emergency care and I thank them for their work in what has been a record year of activity for the organisation.”
The Bundaberg crew also celebrated its first year with an on-board critical care doctor, enhancing the high standard of aeromedical care provided in the region.
The position was made possible thanks to the fundraising efforts of the community and members of the Wide Bay-Burnett LifeFlight Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) and supplemented by Australian Government funding.
Highlights for 2023 included four missions to K’gari with the crew rescue-winching a man after he became ill while swimming in a lake.
A girl was airlifted to hospital in April after she was bitten by a dingo while swimming; a woman was airlifted after being stung by a jellyfish; and the helicopter crew plucked two brothers from the ocean, after the boat they were on overturned near the northern tip of K'gari.
And it wasn’t only sea or island rescues for the Bundaberg crew.
They also provided immediate treatment for an excavator operator who rolled his machine and was then ran over by it.
LifeFlight’s fleet of four air ambulance jets and nine rotary wing aircraft operates from eight Queensland bases and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, directly servicing an area of 1.85 million square kilometres.
It supports search and rescue efforts across 53 million square kilometres of land and sea for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crews across the state performed 2851 missions – an increase of 28 per cent on the previous year total of 2223.
The majority of missions were actioned on behalf of Queensland Health, with male patients making up 62 per cent.
The Bundaberg crew contributed to a record calendar year for LifeFlight Australia as a whole, with the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue and LifeFlight Surat Gas Aeromedical Service helicopters, Air Ambulance jets, Critical Care Doctors Flight Nurses and Flight Paramedics helping 7455 people – a 15 per cent increase on the previous year.
While 2023 proved a remarkable year, another major milestone in 2024 will be realised when LifeFlight Australia celebrates 45 years of service in December. It will coincide with a 30-year partnership with naming rights sponsor RACQ.
“We’re immensely proud to support an organisation that saves so many lives and has such a positive impact on the communities it serves,” said RACQ’s Lauren Cooney.
“The reason Australia’s biggest emergency aeromedical provider and RACQ became partners hasn’t changed in three decades. We share a passion and a commitment for safety and saving lives.”
Since its inception 44 years ago LifeFlight Australia has helped rescue more than 81,000 people.
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.