30 years of helicopter rescue service
“I THOUGHT being a diving instructor was the best job in the world until I became a volunteer with the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.”
After swapping his office of the ocean for the inside of a chopper, Air Crew Officer, Mark Sewell is celebrating 30 years with the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.
“I owe my career change to my wife Maryanne who was then working in the Emergency Department at Lismore Base Hospital,” he said.
“She often saw the helicopter bring patients in and said to me, ‘I think you’d like that’.”
Mr Sewell began as a Volunteer Rescue Crewman in 1990 while working full-time teaching people how to dive near Julian Rocks at Byron Bay.
After six years he stepped up to a full-time job when the WLSRH organisation moved into a 24/7 footing, rather than simply being on call.
“It used to be like being in the State Emergency Service, you’d carry a pager and be on call,” he said.
“My role as an air crew involves sitting alongside the pilot, assisting with communications, when landing or hovering in close spaces, known as ‘conning’; the pilot has overall command of the aircraft and my role is to assist with cockpit duties, communicate with police and other emergency services and as the hoist operator running the winch.
“I’m eyes for the pilot when we are hovering in tight spaces, I look after the paramedic and the doctor in setting up the equipment and assisting them as they need and have the helicopter ready for them when they bring a patient in to be taken to hospital.”
During his career, Mr Sewell has flown in four types of aircraft used by the service, including the Jet Ranger, Long Ranger, Dauphin and the current state-of-the-art aeromedical aircraft of choice, the AW139.
“I thought being a diving instructor was a pretty great life at the time but now, after spending more than half of my life with the service, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else that provides the rewards and satisfaction that I get from helping those in need in the community,” he said.
The father-of-three has even worked alongside son Shaun who was a Rescue Crewman.
Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service operations manager Robert Jenkins and chief executive officer Richard Jones said Mr Sewell’s professionalism and dedication has been and continues to be outstanding.