Big blades keep on spinning to save lives and lift spirits

Thursday 16 September, 2021

New-look state rescue helicopters are gracing South Australian skies as the crucial service continues to respond to emergency and time-critical situations, notching up about 1,200 missions each year.

The State Rescue Helicopter Service (SRHS) is a shared aerial capability – between South Australia Police (SAPOL) and the SA Ambulance Service (SAAS) – that protects South Australian lives with a heavy focus on regional communities limited by their access to emergency healthcare.

An incredible rescue at a waterfall in Mannum on the weekend highlights the diverse missions assigned to emergency responders.

Police Minister Vincent Tarzia said a man was airlifted by SAAS rescue paramedics and a MedSTAR retrieval team to the Royal Adelaide Hospital after falling approximately 20 metres at the waterfall, on Cascade Rd, just before 4pm on Sunday 12 September.

SAPOL, SAAS and volunteers from the State Emergency Service and Country Fire Service worked together to retrieve and stabilise the 34-year-old man before he was winched to safety with non life-threatening injuries.

“The livery on these crucial helicopters has had a facelift but the service remains exactly the same – lifesaving,” Minister Tarzia said.

“Our helicopters are ready to respond at a moment’s notice. They conduct search and rescue missions on land, at sea, and support police pursuits and operations targeting criminals.

“Rapid emergency medical interventions and patient retrievals from road crashes and regional hospitals also occur regularly.”

In 2020/21, rescue helicopters were deployed 735 times for medical-related incidents. In the past 12 months, 647 operational SAPOL tasks were conducted, resulting in 132 apprehensions and 24 missing people found.

SAAS MedSTAR Clinical Director Andrew Pearce said rescue and retrieval clinicians are responsible for providing care to the critically ill and injured.

“The new livery is a shiny reminder to the public that be it on the ground or in the skies, Special Operations paramedics and MedSTAR doctors and nurses are here to keep the community safe,” Dr Pearce said.

“Our airborne clinicians work in one of the most challenging environments and I thank them for their ongoing service to South Australians in need.”

There are currently three SRHS contracted aircraft – two with SAAS branding and the third covered in SAPOL graphics. The SAPOL branded twin engine helicopter is replacing a single engine aircraft due to mandated regulatory changes.

SAPOL Assistant Commissioner Noel Bamford, Security and Emergency Management Service, praised the capability of the new police branded helicopter.

“This aircraft features twin engines to provide additional safety and has the capacity to hold up to eight people,” AC Bamford.

“It features high definition, thermal imaging cameras and a very bright spotlight for use at night called a ‘night sun’.

“This aircraft further enhances the capacity for state emergency services, including SA Police, to quickly and effectively respond to and manage emergency situations.”

Despite their agency specific branding, all three aircraft will continue to be shared for operational use.