Leu calls for second helicopter
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.
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.”