Triumph, tragedy and saving lives: CQ Rescue marks 25 years
Born out of necessity, RACQ CQ Rescue Mackay has celebrated its silver jubilee by reflecting on the triumphs, the tragedies and everything in-between.
The community-based organisation has performed more than 10,000 rescue missions in its 25-year history, a service now iconic to the region and hard to imagine being without.
Director Dr Bert Sadlier said the operation started in 1996 after a groundswell of community support.
“Going back to the early 80s and 90s, it was recognised there was a need for an emergency retrieval service in this area,” Dr Sadlier said.
“There was a lot of road traffic trauma, there were mining accidents, there were people injured on the islands which had no access to (an) ambulance.
“That recognition forced our hand.”
Dr Sadlier said a company was founded and began buying specialised equipment and training nurses, doctors and paramedics with the first operations a team effort between a road-based ambulance and a charter pilot flying an aircraft belonging to the Mount Isa mines.
He said the iconic and lifesaving service had since grown to include bigger, better and more complex aircraft, hangars and equipment.
“It’s well supported in the community by donors and sponsors,” Dr Sadlier said.
“It’s fantastic to be celebrating its 25th year.”
But among the highlights, there were also lows including the 2003 disaster where three crew members lost their lives when the Bell 407 ditched into the sea between Cape Hillsborough and Little Green Island off Shoal Point.
Every year the rescue family visit Cape Hillsborough to pay their respects.
“(That’s) a part of our history we don’t talk about a lot,” Dr Sadlier said.
“That was a real tragedy that really knocked us around.
“But we’ve picked up ourselves up and moved on and we’ve gone from strength to strength.”
Fellow director Dr Peter Bastable echoed his sentiment adding the onus of care had transformed over the decades to not only focus on rapid transport but to provide expert medical attention at the scene.
Dr Bastable gave a special thanks to the Cook family who gave substantial donations to get the service off the ground amid fundraising struggles carried out via old-fashioned “stamps and envelopes”.
Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson, also a director of the organisation, thanked the personnel for their outstanding dedication and the community for its continued support.