11 January 2023

South Coast rescue helicopter grounded twice during busiest time of year

| Katrina Condie
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Helicopter winching person to safety

Lifesaver 23 crew from Moruya winched a rock fisher to safety near Middle Beach on the south coast in November. Photo: Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Facebook.

The South Coast-based Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter is expected to return to Moruya airport this afternoon (11 January) after being stood down for maintenance during the region’s busiest holiday season in years.

For the second time this summer, the chopper has been out of action following a two-week maintenance standdown just before Christmas.

The rescue helicopter was grounded for three days this week while urgent repairs were made to its winch at the Sydney base.

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Pilot Matt O’Brien said while the timing wasn’t ideal, the repairs were required to ensure the winch cable was operational.

“It’s right in the middle of our busiest time of year,” he said, “but it was a mechanical issue that had to be addressed.”

He added that a second Lifesaver helicopter has been on standby with Sydney crews ready to fly to the south coast if required.

“We also have great backup from the Toll Ambulance helicopter and Polair.”

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Following concerns that extra pressure could be placed on already-strained road ambulance crews, Matt said the aircraft would be back in the air as soon as possible.

“I’ll be flying it back myself,” he said.

Over summer, the helicopter, which covers an area from Shoalhaven Heads to the Victoria border, has been called to medical emergencies, including beach rescues, bush retrievals and road accidents.

The Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter Service operates seven days a week, 365 days a year, with two choppers based at La Perouse in Sydney and Moruya Airport.

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