Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter duty pilot Tom Hulse pictured with the old emergency beacon.
Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter duty pilot Tom Hulse pictured with the old emergency beacon. Jacklyn Wagner

Emergency beacon found in Qld tip

AN ACTIVE emergency beacon dumped at a rubbish tip sent Northern NSW and South-East Queensland emergency services scrambling earlier this month, fearing an aircraft had crashed.

Lismore’s Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter crew eventually found the beacon buried at a tip at Goodna, between Brisbane and Ipswich, after two CareFlight aircraft failed to locate the signal before being diverted to other jobs.

Mission pilot Marty Hanna said the distress signal was probably picked up originally by commercial jetliners and relayed through to the Australian Search and Rescue (AusSAR) rescue co-ordination centre in Canberra via Air Traffic Control in Brisbane.

“Once we got the call from AusSAR, we launched with two paramedics, prepared for the worst,” he said.

“Initially we had trouble finding the signal and had to go up as high as 6000 feet to pick it up.

“By then we were almost as far north as Amberley and had to stop to refuel at Archerfield.”

Thirty minutes later the crew located the signal at the Goodna tip.

“It took another three or four trips to locate as it was an old unit with a weak signal,” Mr Hanna said.

Relieved it wasn’t a crash site, the crew notified AusSAR, confirming the location of the tip and set about retrieving the beacon.

“AusSAR needed us to retrieve the unit to prevent more false alarms,” he said.

“We landed and used our hand-held homer to pinpoint the beacon.

“It was buried in there pretty deep and had probably been activated by the tip’s earthmoving equipment.”

Crew member Mark Sewell and paramedic Michael Smith got stuck in determined not to return empty-handed.

“Michael and Mark rummaged through the rubbish for an hour before they finally found it. Just before we were called back to base,” Mr Hanna said.

“They are pretty committed guys. I wasn’t going in there.

“They had re-tasked us to another job and just as we were getting ready to launch Michael got it. He heard it clicking.”

Mr Hanna reminded anyone disposing of emergency beacons to properly deactivate them first to avoid a false alarm.



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