Close to their hearts

SES throws ev­ery­thing at search for tod­dler


THEY are the vol­un­teer he­roes cov­ered from head to toe in bright or­ange – and they re­fused to give up in the search for a tod­dler who went miss­ing from her Childers home.

For two days, Childers SES crews, to­gether with other crews from through­out the Wide Bay district, metic­u­lously scoured nearby bush­land and cane fields in the hope of find­ing the three-year-old alive and well.

Train­ing of­fi­cer Elise Cot­tam said 18 mem­bers of her team had been in­volved in the search, and she talked of their “overwhelming” re­lief when she was found.

“We got a call in the early hours of the morn­ing to say she’d been found. I per­son­ally just re­mem­ber get­ting shiv­ers all over me and think­ing, ‘thank Christ she’s all right’,” Mrs Cot­tam said.

“It’s a very overwhelming feel­ing, par­tic­u­larly that she showed up in the show­grounds.”

The ex­pe­ri­enced emer­gency ser­vices vol­un­teer said the sit­u­a­tion was par­tic­u­larly close to their hearts be­cause many mem­bers had chil­dren or grand­chil­dren, which fu­elled their de­ter­mi­na­tion to find the child in good health.

“It’s some­thing close to home,” she said.

“I’ve got young grand­kids around (the girl’s) age. You al­ways put that aside and stay fo­cused, but when it’s at the end, it’s a big re­lief.”

Mrs Cot­tam ex­pressed her grat­i­tude to her team for their ded­i­ca­tion and said many mem­bers were weary by Fri­day due to the ef­fort they had put into the task.

“I’m very proud of the Childers team for the way they held them­selves and how they con­tin­ued to work with the po­lice and other vol­un­teers,” she said.

“One guy, Kevin Seng, gave up two days of full-time work, and he was ex­tremely re­source­ful in leading and co-or­di­nat­ing the teams with John (Cot­tam, Childers SES team leader).”

“For a lot of these guys, it was the first ma­jor event in Childers. It was a big eye opener for them.”

Mrs Cot­tam said her crew was also in awe of the po­lice.

“I feel quite con­fi­dent in the fact that if any of my chil­dren or grand­chil­dren went miss­ing, I could rely on them. They weren’t stop­ping un­til she was found,” she said.

Mrs Cot­tam said the ex­pe­ri­ence al­lowed her team to fill some gaps in train­ing that they could now as­sess to en­hance their skills.


JOB WELL DONE: State Emer­gency Ser­vices work­ers are re­lieved in the re­turn of the miss­ing tod­dler, af­ter search­ing for 42 hours.

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