Two bushwalkers saved a man’s life when they found him on a remote trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

Just before 1.00pm Saturday afternoon (03 February), a man and woman were walking on Smiths Creek Trail, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, when they came across a 58-year-old man sitting alone by the side of the path, apparently out of breath.

Initially believing the man may have been exhausted after walking for some distance in hot weather over difficult terrain, they quickly became concerned when the man explained he was experiencing symptoms similar to a previous heart attack.

Helicopter rescue from bush

The pair, a man and woman in their 30s, lay the man down and attempted to make him comfortable, and called Triple Zero (000) for emergency assistance. The woman was able to provide precise GPS coordinates of their location on the trail while her partner raced to the trailhead to meet the ambulance, at ‘the triangle’ where General San Martin Drive meets McCarrs Creek Road.

Four NSW Ambulance crews responded to the scene, including a car from Avalon Ambulance Station, two Special Operations Paramedics and NSW Ambulance Inspector Mark Hayes. They met the woman’s walking partner at the top of the trail and he guided a walking party of paramedics to the 58-year-old man’s location approximately 2km down the track, assisting paramedics by carrying a heavy pack of medical gear and a chainsaw.

Helicopter rescue from bush

With confirmation of the GPS location and the man’s condition, Inspector Hayes established a command post and remained at the trailhead. As the walking party commenced their journey down the trail, he called for a Toll NSW Ambulance Rescue Helicopter to attend the location and insert a medical team.

Inspector Hayes also requested Fire and Rescue NSW attend with an all-terrain stretcher in case helicopter rescue was not possible. Specialist rescue firefighters from Narrabeen Station responded to the trailhead location to await further information on the rescue effort.

Helicopter rescue from bush

The walking party reached the unwell man’s location at the bottom of the ravine, near Smiths Creek, shortly after 2.00pm. His condition had visibly deteriorated according to the pair who had found him an hour earlier. With patchy radio reception, paramedics were able to relay their concerns back to the rescue helicopter, which was now on approach from its Bankstown base.

A Special Operations Paramedic set off a smoke flare to give the approaching helicopter their precise location. The critical care team aboard the helicopter were then authorised to conduct a winch insertion through the tree canopy. Two Critical Care Paramedics and a doctor were winched down with life-saving medical gear.

Helicopter rescue from bush

The helicopter then departed and set down elsewhere to await a report from the medical team on the man’s condition. Believing the man was advancing through the initial stages of a cardiac arrest, he was placed on an intravenous drip and given medication.

After checking their assistance was no longer required, the unassuming pair who had come across the man and called for help said they would leave him in the hands of the medical professionals and returned to the trailhead.

Assessing the man’s condition and their options for getting him out of a deep gully, the medical team requested permission for a helicopter winch extraction. After review of the risk factors and taking into account the man’s deteriorating condition, permission for helicopter winch rescue was provided by a NSW Ambulance Superintendent.

Helicopter rescue from bush

The medical team prepared the man, placing him into a stretcher with bindings to keep him restrained during the dangerous ascent. Special Operations Paramedics cleared the immediate area of any loose debris and hazards that may be blown around by the downforce of the helicopter’s blades as it hovered overhead.

With everything ready for extraction, the Toll helicopter returned and the man was lifted up to the helicopter with the emergency doctor just before 3.15pm. The two Critical Care Paramedics and their gear were also retrieved, and the helicopter departed for Royal North Shore Hospital with the man in a serious condition, landing just after 3.30pm.

The walking party was then left to make its way back to the trailhead, arriving just before 4.15pm.

Exercising on trails in national parks is a popular pastime, but phone reception can be limited and the man was very fortunate other bushwalkers found him on the trail. No other passersby were seen on the trail for the duration of the rescue.

To assist with location in emergencies, it is strongly recommended everyone install the Emergency Plus app for iPhone and Android.

Images and video: Northern Beaches Advocate

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