VICSES volunteers lead multi-agency rescue in Grampians

VICSES volunteers lead multi-agency rescue in Grampians

04/01/2023, 4:51 PM

Multi-agency task force at Laharum, on Tuesday 3rd January. Incident Commander Jordan Bush is last on the right.

On Tuesday, emergency services were called to the Grampians Peak Trail at Hollow Mountain, to assist in an incident involving an injured climber, who had had fallen from a height of 15 meters,  and had sustained serious injuries.

Given the severity of the incident, as well the patient’s injuries, volunteer crews from across the region were activated in an effort to reach the patient as soon as possible. Alongside the ground crews, high-angle rescue teams were deployed from VICSES Ararat, Horsham, and Stawell Units, alongside Country Fire Authority members in Laharum and Hamilton, as well as personnel from Ambulance Victoria, Fire Rescue Victoria, and Victoria Police.

Having set up a staging area at the car park, volunteer crews climbed the trail terrain for over an hour to reach the patient.

The crews started out on a dedicated track which gave way to the steep, rutted scramble and loose chippings that lay beyond.

As the rescue operation progressed into the evening, an air ambulance helicopter was called in to winch the patient to safety. However, the climber had unfortunately fallen into a pit under the cliff face, making the use of a winch too dangerous.

Notwithstanding, volunteer crews continued to work with paramedics on scene to extricate the patient from the pit using a system of ropes, and a stretcher, to safely transport the patient past the fifteen metres of sheer rock, from which he had fallen.

The multi-agency response at Laharum is yet another example of our emergency service personnel working together, and around the clock, to protect and save lives. To manage this incident, twelve VICSES volunteers and one staff member contributed their skills and experience, along with 32 staff and volunteers from other agencies in multiple rescue trucks, support vehicles, and two helicopters.

If you were out hiking, camping or bike-riding and you had to call triple zero in an emergency, would you know how to tell the operator exactly where you are?

Before you head off on a hike, take a moment to plan ahead:

  • Know your limitations – consider the degree of difficulty of any walks or hikes you are taking and ensure you don’t overdo it.
  • Pack a map and a compass, or know your route via GPS, and know any common location names. 
  • Become familiar with emergency markers located along bushwalking tracks. They are designed to pinpoint your exact location during an emergency in public open spaces or a hard to define places. They display three letters and three numbers which gives an exact location of where the markers are.
  • Ensure you keep away from hazardous trees in the wind.
  • Take plenty of water and some food.
  • Wear appropriate footwear and clothes for the conditions.
  • Have communications equipment that will work where you are going – like a satellite phone if you’re going for extended periods across low coverage areas. Consider if you’ll need radio backup, a Personal Locator Beacon, a copy of any important phone numbers, a phone charger, battery pack or other communications supplies.
  • If visiting national parks or walking tracks, check with Parks Victoria via ahead of time for closures.

When planning your walk, use trusted sources of information like the Parks Victoria website. Visitor Guides on park specific pages have maps and information about walking difficulty and estimated duration, based on the Australian Walking Track Grading System. There are also important and timely updates on park or track closures.

Search and rescue operations require, on average, eight VICSES volunteers in three vehicles, working for around four hours, amounting to thirty-two hours of volunteer time for each rescue. This does not including the work undertaken by Parks Victoria, Ambulance Victoria, and Victoria Police Search and Rescue personnel. 

VICSES Incident Commander, Jordan Bush:

“The extrication of the patient was conducted by air ambulance but there were plans in place to conduct a high angle rescue of the patient, if they were unable, that required setting up extensive roping systems.”

“With the warmer weather, we hope that this incident is a timely reminder to ensure that climbers and hikers should prepare for the task they are undertaking. Research the area before you go, make sure you communicate your plans with a friend or family or take someone with you, and know your risks.”

“In this rescue, the patient had friends who played a significant part in getting him out safely, and who assisted emergency services throughout the incident.

“Our emergency services work incredibly well together to ensure community safety, whether it is their local community or the broader Victorian community.”