The Toowoomba-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crew yesterday staged a delicate winch operation as part of a “challenging” eight-hour mission to rescue a hiker stranded on a sheer cliff face at Cunninghams Gap northeast of Warwick.
In a statement released late yesterday, Friday 16 August, a LifeFlight spokeswoman said it was “believed the teenager had lost his footing and fallen 20 metres down the steep cliff, described by emergency crews as “almost vertical”.
“The Toowoomba-based RACQ LifeFlight Rescue chopper was called to Mount Mitchell, just before 8am (Friday),” the spokeswoman said.
“The crew initially attempted to winch a LifeFlight Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) Flight Paramedic down to where the patient was stuck, but the terrain was so steep there was nowhere he could be safely inserted.
“It was determined the teen had to be moved to safer ground, before he could be winched.
“We’re still astounded as to how he stayed on the cliff.
“The helicopter crew then picked up two Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) firefighters, trained in Vertical Rescue, from a nearby helipad.
“The pair was winched down to the mountain, to an area above where the teenager was clinging to the cliff face.
“It was very intense, there was a life on the life and there were other lives on the line trying to rescue him.
“While the helicopter briefly returned to the Toowoomba base to refuel, the firefighters managed to successfully move the man to the peak of the mountain, from where he could be safely winched.
“QAS paramedics and additional QFES personnel, including SES volunteers, had also walked to the scene.
“The LifeFlight QAS Flight Paramedic was then lowered down to the top of the mountain, to secure the patient and winch him back up to the safety of the helicopter.
“The RACQ LifeFlight Rescue crew said it was a very delicate location, with only around two metres of ground surface and steep rock on either side.
“The terrain was absolutely extremely challenging.
“It was just outstanding from all involved – there was not much room for error.
“The teen was flown to the nearby helipad, and the helicopter returned to the mountain peak to winch the two QFES Verticle Rescue firefighters.
“The patient was then airlifted to Toowoomba Hospital with lower leg injuries.”