Blue Mountains rescue September 2022
When a bushwalker spotted a lone man sitting half way down a cliff face at Glenbrook, Critical Care Helicopter (CCP) and Special Operations Team (SOT) paramedics raced to the scene. What unfolded next was a dramatic and daring rescue that showcased the rescue skills and teamwork of all involved.

Shortly after 12:30pm on Friday 23 September a bushwalker on the Glenbrook Gorge Walking Track in the Blue Mountains National Park called Triple Zero (000).

The walker had spotted a man sitting precariously on a ledge halfway up a 20-metre cliff without any rock climbing equipment. When the walker shouted out to him, the man, believed to be in his 30s, was unresponsive.

A multi-agency rescue was launched immediately, and a NSW Ambulance Rescue Helicopter was tasked from Bankstown. Team Leader and Critical Care Helicopter Paramedic Alessandro picks up the story.

“There were some unknowns at the beginning of the mission as initially we didn’t know how the patient came to rest on that ledge.”

“Did he fall or did he climb and get stuck? Is he injured? What’s his mental status? Is he aggressive or having a psychotic episode? Is he likely to become agitated at the sight of the helicopter or the CCP on a rope?

“Can we accidentally knock him over from his precarious position (with the helicopter downwash) if we get too close? What if he decided to jump? As it turned out the patient was not verbal, for the entire duration of the rescue.”

Alessandro said weather was a factor for the rescue helicopter crew, as the conditions were marginal with low clouds and there were concerns about committing to a narrow valley.

“The weather in the mountains can close in from behind once you commit to entering the valley, effectively cutting off the helicopter escape route,” Alessandro explained. “Another meteorological factor that we were acutely aware of was the need to complete the mission before nightfall."

“The decision was made to insert two CCPs – myself and CCP David – via winch approximately 100 metres from the patient on a small ledge with our gear, and from there to abseil down from the top of the cliff.”

A SOT team and Police Rescue officers walked in from the bottom of the valley and set up at the bottom of the cliff below the CCPs from the Rescue Helicopter.

“Each of us had a bush pack and medical pack. After a gear drop of rope bags, we moved to above the patient,” Alessandro said.

“From the cliff top, we lowered a rope to the Police Rescue officers at the base so that one of them could ascend to the patient. CCP David abseiled to the patient from above. He found the patient under a shallow overhang, unresponsive and sitting slumped on a narrow ledge. With the assistance of Police Rescue, David attached a makeshift tape harness to the patient and secured the patient.”

Alessandro said that the patient was then assist abseiled to the base, where SOT paramedics took over treatment and packaged the patient into a sleeping bag.

“Our helicopter returned for a stretcher insertion and two gear lifts. While our helicopter retrieved the gear, we packaged the patient for an assisted stretcher winch extrication. Once the patient was safely on board the helicopter, he became more alert. He was subsequently conveyed to Westmead Hospital in a stable condition."

“This was a really interesting rescue, because it called on the full range of our aviation, clinical and technical roping rescue skills. It doesn’t happen very often that we have to winch in, drop gear, rappel down, treat a patient, assist abseil down with the patient, stabilise, extricate and winch out again with gear.

“Thankfully it was a good outcome."