Leu calls for sec­ond he­li­copter

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Shane Ni­chols

DOU­GLAS Shire Mayor Ju­lia Leu has called for a sec­ond Res­cue 501 he­li­copter to be sta­tioned in Cairns.

On Novem­ber 14 Mayor Leu wrote a let­ter to state MP Mark Ryan, the Min­is­ter for Po­lice, Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices and Cor­rec­tive Ser­vices, in which she said a Dou­glas lo­cal, Mitch Bohm, had sought her help to se­cure an­other res­cue chop­per for our re­gion.

It was De­cem­ber nearly two years ago when Mr Bohm was one of sev­eral young men who fought for two hours to save the life of their mate, spear fish­er­man Daniel Smith, who had been at­tacked by a shark at Rud­der Reef, off the Dain­tree Coast.

It is un­der­stood his friends in the boat had phoned emer­gency ser­vices at the time of the at­tack but were told the res­cue he­li­copter was not avail­able.

Mr Smith was brought back to Port Dou­glas by boat but did not sur­vive the or­deal.

Ms Leu told the this week it had been an is­sue for some time.

She cited sev­eral other in­ci­dents in re­cent times where a sec­ond he­li­copter may had a dif­fer­ence. One of the prob- lems, she un­der­stands, is that main­te­nance and ser­vic­ing of the sin­gle Res­cue 501 he­li­copter can mean it is off­line for weeks at a time, ev­ery year.

A sep­a­rate prob­lem, she be­lieved, is that emer­gency calls are routed through var­i­ous dis­tance call cen­tres, mean­ing de­lays and pos­si­ble er­rors.

“It is a mat­ter of the state gov­ern­ment putting in ad­di­tional re­sources to main­tain a sec­ond he­li­copter here,” she said.

“It’s a re­ally se­ri­ous is­sue. The tragic in­ci­dent with Daniel Smith high­lighted the sit­u­a­tion of when a he­li­copter was not avail­able. Sadly we don’t know whether it would have made the dif­fer­ence.”

The mayor’s let­ter pre­ceded a shock­ing run of fa­tal­i­ties on the Great Bar­rier Reef last week, in which three peo­ple died in three days on the reef. One more died in a he­li­copter ac­ci­dent at Mt Wind­sor.

It has been re­vealed that Res­cue 501 had been un­able to at­tend three of the four past fa­tal­i­ties on the Reef.

It has prompted ma­rine tour op­er­a­tors to ask the state gov­ern­ment for ex­tra re­sources. Bar­ron River MP Craig Craw­for has lob­bied the Min­is­ter Ryan for an­other he­li­copter or the reg­u­lar use of pri­vate com­pany re­sources.

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

MITCH Bohm thinks back to a tragic day in De­cem­ber two years ago when his mate Daniel Smith was fight­ing for his life. Mr Bohm says they were ini­tially told the res­cue he­li­copter would at­tend, but were called half an hour later to say it wasn’t avail­able. Crew from a nearby dive boat helped the boys try to re­vive the 18-year-old us­ing a de­fib­ri­la­tor, but he was later pro­nounced dead when they even­tu­ally re­turned to shore. “That res­cue team does such a good job, but it’s also not fair on them. That sec­ond he­li­copter would give so many peo­ple a re­lief. I would feel re­gret on my back if some­body else got taken by a shark and the res­cue he­li­copter didn’t make it.”

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