Helicopter Retrieval in Wild Extremes: A West Australian Experience

Mr Ben Harris1

1St John Ambulance WA, Marmion, Australia

An adult male has partially amputated his leg as the result of an accident aboard a fishing vessel on the edge of the Great Australian Bight. The patient is critically injured.

The rendezvous with the vessel occurs 430nM south east of Perth and approximately 22nM off the isolated southern coastline of WA. The crew is faced with in 4 – 5 meter swells, winds in excess of 25 knots and last light is closing in fast. The call is received from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) at 1400hrs. The mission that followed took over 12 hours to conduct and contributed to a positive patient outcome.

This complex and volatile mission required the Western Australian RAC Emergency Rescue Helicopter Service (ERHS) crew to operate in territory not previously experienced as a collective team. The aviation, logistical, geographical and clinical requirements challenged the crew beyond what they could have ever anticipated on the day.

This rescue took place in late 2016 is an incredible testament to EHRS training, interagency cooperation, decision making and is a powerful example of helicopter retrieval in an extremely hostile environment.

The purpose of this presentation is to present and debrief a real case to illustrate how the Western Australian Emergency Rescue Helicopter Service rose to the challenge and conducted an aeromedical retrieval in line with the Conference theme of “Aeromedical Retrieval in Hostile Environments”.

(In my presentation I have amongst other images the helicopter camera footage of the vessel winch)


I have been a Paramedic for 16 years, with the last 4 years being in the role of Critical Care Paramedic with the RAC Rescue Helicopter Service. Also part of the Special Operations/USAR team as a Special Operations Paramedic. Have attained a Bachelor of Science (Paramedical Science) and Post Graduate Certificate in Aeromedical Retrieval.

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