LIFE SAVERS: Of the 10,025 Westpac Helicopter missions conducted up until the end of March, 40 per cent were for medical transfers and emergency responses, followed by a smaller proportion of several hundred search and rescues.
LIFE SAVERS: Of the 10,025 Westpac Helicopter missions conducted up until the end of March, 40 per cent were for medical transfers and emergency responses, followed by a smaller proportion of several hundred search and rescues.

Rescue helicopter CEO breaks down the mission numbers

MOST accidents occurring on the Northern Rivers are predominantly car crashes followed by boating and farming accidents, the Westpac Life Saver Rescue CEO Richard Jones says.

Flying high since 1982, the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter recently clocked more than 10,000 lifesaving missions across the Northern Rivers and beyond.

Of the 10,025 missions conducted up until the end of March, 40 per cent were for medical transfers and emergency responses, followed by several hundred search-and-rescue missions.

But of the chopper's 4455 primary emergency response missions to date, Mr Jones said the call-outs were "overwhelmingly" motor vehicle accidents and farming accidents.

"But we've seen a prominence of horseriding accidents in there as well," he said.

"Our guys don't have a clue what jobs they will attend when they get to work - the most bizarre call-out could come through and they are out there in a flash."

The most call-outs in the service's history were for patient inter-hospital transfers across Northern NSW, which was sitting at 4455.

"This is a vital service we provide," he said.

"With the smaller clinics and hospitals - with a huge amount of respect to their skills and ability - maybe the resources aren't as high as they should be."

Mr Jones said the majority of the 701 search-and-rescues involved boating or bushwalking incidents and missing person cases.

"They mostly involve responses to an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) - a personal satellite tracking device that boaters and bushwalkers carry," Mr Jones said.

"If they get into any foul play, we can track those sorts of devices to within a couple of metres, which is very helpful.

"People who are generally prepared are the people we usually find."

He said the areas covered by Westpac helicopter Lismore Base included Coffs Harbour, right up to the border, then inland to around Tenterfield.

"A high percentage of the 10,000 missions were good outcomes, but we have to remember that there is not always a good outcome, sadly," he said.

While the chopper's primary emergency response missions have plateaued due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Jones said the mission numbers were not decreasing.

"We have seen an increase in inter hospital transfers - it's certainly not getting any less busy," he said.

"There is a need there daily.

"That's why we are about to launch our End of Year Financial Appeal, because we certainly need some assistance to continue to do the work we do."



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