NSW intensive care ambulance paramedics transfer the injured bushwalker from the Westpac helicopter base to a waiting ambulance.
NSW intensive care ambulance paramedics transfer the injured bushwalker from the Westpac helicopter base to a waiting ambulance. The Northern Star

Paramedics brave cold to rescue bushwalker

AFTER 15 hours in the bush, drenched by rain, covered in mud and leeches, all Rolan Murcott wanted was a big breakfast, a mug of hot chocolate, and a shower.

The NSW Ambulance intensive care paramedic and his colleague, Gonzalo De Angulo, went to the aid of a 19-year-old injured international university student who was stranded in the Nightcap Range on Monday afternoon, and ended up staying the night with him in the rugged, slippery terrain.

The ambulance service called the Westpac Life Saver Helicopter crew about 4pm on Monday with information that a bushwalker had slipped and injured his back while walking at Nightcap Bluff.

"It was a simple slip and he was carrying a heavy backpack which was fully-loaded," Mr Murcott said.

"He landed heavily on his back and probably sustained muscular injuries, and possible fractured bones in his back and shoulder.

"Under torchlight and in heavy rain and mud, we treated him with morphine and painkillers to help him sleep through the night.

"We moved him with the assistance of members of the group back to their campsite, about 300 metres from where he slipped.

"He suffered from mild exposure due to the weather, but he was in a reasonably stable condition."

A North Coast Area Health spokeskeswoman said the bushwalker was released from Lismore Base Hospital yesterday morning.

The group were students at Southern Cross University on a field trip with School of Education lecturer Stephen Hawkes.

Mr Murcott said the students were well-equipped and trained, and without their assistance the helicopter crew would have found it difficult to find them.

"We flew in under heavy cloud on Monday afternoon and we had to abort our initial approach as it was too dangerous," he said.

"We then came in from the Murwillumbah side at a low level, flying just above the treetops, and we saw the group standing on the ridge top.

"They were smart enough to get to a high point. You could lose an army platoon out there and never find them.

"The initial plan wasn't to stay overnight, but the patient was about 300 metres from the ridge top in dense and dangerous terrain.

"We relayed to the helicopter that we'd have to stay, so they headed back to base."

A special casualty access team hiked about 2.5km into the park with equipment, food and water, and some improvised shelter.

The Westpac helicopter flew to Nightcap Bluff about 6am yesterday to winch up the patient and paramedics. Pilot Marty Hanna said it was obvious the group was relieved to see the paramedics.

"They were getting hugs and were being warmly received.

"It was raining most of the night and our paramedics didn't get much sleep. It was very uncomfortable, wet and cold. But ultimately, that is what we're here for."


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