A SERIOUSLY injured driver was saved from a long and dark night trapped in his vehicle on a Townsville mountain yesterday by the Mackay-based rescue helicopter.
RACQ CQ Rescue used night vision goggles to find the site of the serious car accident and locate the injured driver more than three hours after he crashed on Mt Stuart Lookout Road, 320km north of Mackay, in what crews described as a "difficult" search and rescue mission.
RACQ CQ Rescue was notified by the Queensland Police Service about 7pm that a car was believed to have crashed off the road after a passing truck reported hearing a distress call on a UHF radio.
The Mackay rescue helicopter, with a pilot, air crewman, rescue crewman and critical care paramedic on board, departed the Mackay base and upon arrival at Mt Stuart about 9.30pm, immediately began a search of the area by following the road up to the lookout, RACQ CQ Rescue air crewman Quinton Rethus said.
"We started the search at the bottom of Mt Stuart and worked our way up looking for anything reflective but this was really difficult given it was so dark and such thick vegetation," he said.
"It was pitch black and we couldn't see anything using the high-intensity helicopter spotlight, but about 40 minutes into the search and half-way up we saw what appeared to be two headlights amongst the trees through the night vision goggles," Mr Rethus said.
"Actually, it wasn't even in the search area and the bitumen road was about 150 metres above the light source and down a steep embankment," he said.
"We then focussed the beam of the spotlight and talked to police on the mobile phone to direct them to the point where the vehicle appeared to have left the road and then down the steep embankment to the wreckage of the car."
The helicopter continued to orbit the area for about 20 minutes until police located the vehicle. Mr Rethus said the driver was conscious and suffered multiple fractures to his legs and pelvis and was not retrieved from the wreckage by emergency services until about 11pm, more than five hours after the initial accident.
The search and rescue mission was made very difficult because of thick vegetation, powerlines in the area and cloud cover.
"We had zero illumination from the moon so it was pretty tricky to maintain orbits in the area given the visibility and we were unable to winch or land," Mr Rethus said.
"If our rescue helicopter didn't go and assist in the search for this driver I'm not sure how long it would have been until they found him," he said.
"They didn't know where the car had left the road and therefore really had no idea where to find him given it was so dark, steep and heavily vegetated."
RACQ CQ Rescue returned to base close to midnight after flying 360 nautical miles (660km) and six hours.
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