Boat skipper Barry Glass.
Boat skipper Barry Glass. Cathy Adams

Triple-0 procedures 'flawed'

A FREAK accident at Mobbs Bay last week has prompted calls by citizen rescuers to clarify triple-0 procedures.

Barry Glass, a Pimlico resident who spends most of his time aboard a houseboat on the Richmond River, became involved in the horrific rescue of two Tweed Heads men struck by a the spinning propeller of their runaway tinny.

But he found himself frustrated by the Triple 0 operator who demanded a street address when it was clear the rescue was taking place on the water.

The incident last week in some ways mirrored that of fated bushwalker David Iredale who had trouble explaining his remote Blue Mountains location to triple-0 operators back in 2006. An inquest later recommended changes in the way operators handle certain calls.

However the Ballina accident has also highlighted the importance of using correct marine radio protocol to assist emergency services in doing their job.

Explaining his predicament Mr Glass said the men were thrown out of their boat while making a tight turn, with one of them still holding the boat tiller.

“I turned and saw it lurch, and it was doing circles on its own,” Mr Glass said.

The boat then went ‘round and round’, running over the men, leaving one with a laceration near his ear, and the other with deep cuts under his arm, along his torso and on his leg.

“I asked if anyone was hurt, and one bloke yelled out and there was a five foot trail of blood in the water behind him,” Mr Glass said.

“There was a big gash up his leg, and his arm was all mangled, totally exposed to the bone. I’m still pretty shaken up about it.”

Mr Glass, a former speed ski racer with the AWSA, said the freak accident was a ‘very scary moment’, especially when it was hard to get an ambulance after calling triple-0.

“I’ve had a couple of accidents myself, so I know the consequences,” he said.

“I put a compression cuff on him, and got my mate to call triple-0.”

While Mr Glass got the men into a smaller boat attached to his houseboat ready to take them, his friend was still trying to give triple-0 operators enough information on how to get there.

“It took six or seven minutes to get them into the boat, I came back, and he was still on the phone to triple-0,” Mr Glass said.

“The woman was asking for a street address, date of birth, and what number we were calling from, so I told her we were in the middle of the bay, but would meet them just at the sailing club at the end of River Street.”

However, Mr Glass said the ambulance didn’t arrive at the Richmond River Sailing Club, and with a man bleeding to death in their arms after 20 minutes, he rang Ballina Police at 4.15pm and asked them to get the local ambulance to attend.

They arrived 15 minutes later, meeting both police and Mr Glass at the sailing club.For emergencies on the water, Ballina Coastguard Commander Norm Lannoy said the Coastguard should be called, and either they or the jetboat rescue would attend.

“If someone is injured, either the jetboat or us, whoever gets there first, would commence first aid,” he said.

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