The Westpac Rescue helicopter during a training exercise with Ballina Marine Rescue and the Lennox Head Surf Life Saving Club at Lennox Head in December 2013.
The Westpac Rescue helicopter during a training exercise with Ballina Marine Rescue and the Lennox Head Surf Life Saving Club at Lennox Head in December 2013. Doug Eaton

Rescue groups prepare for the very worst

LENNOX Head beachgoers watched from the shore yesterday as the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter winched silhouettes from the water as part of a major training exercise.

The exercise was done in conjunction with Ballina Marine Rescue, acting as the "vessel in distress", and the Lennox Head Surf Life Saving Club, which provided additional support.

The purpose of the training exercise was to ensure rescue operations would run smoothly if an incident did occur.

Helicopter crew chief Roger Fry said together the organisations had successfully achieved the aims of the exercise.

"It's important we keep doing this regularly so we're all well versed if an incident does occur," he said.

"It helps us with how we must communicate with people on boats.

"You're talking on different radio channels, relaying information from one service to another and disseminating that information."

The first stage of the training exercise involved the helicopter passing down a line to VMR boat.

Once secured, the VMR boat pulled on the line to release the life raft from the rescue helicopter.

The life raft then inflated on impact with the water, floating about 70m behind the boat.

From the life raft, team members in life jackets acting as "patients" were winched to safety by the rescue helicopter.

Volunteer Marine Rescue skipper Jeff Norton said the training exercise was usually run once a year.

"There were a couple of small, minor issues to do with communications that were probably a bit lacking, but that's what training exercises are for," he said.

"Every time we have one, we find issues that we weren't aware of. With sophisticated electronics, you've got to be on top of it. You don't want to find out how to work something when there's someone in distress."



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