CQ Rescue helicopter crewman finds injured bushwalker at Eungella

13 Jun 2022

distress beacon

A well-equipped tourist needed everything in his bag of tricks to guide rescuers to him after he broke his ankle on a deserted walking track in North Queensland. 

A CQ Rescue crew was called to a distress beacon activated on the Broken River Trail at Eungella, 81km from Mackay, about 3pm Monday. 

Armed with a rescue whistle, camera flash and personal locator beacon, the 65-year-old Brisbane man was found and winched to safety by crewman Keeley Wakefield, 28. 

“We made our way out towards Eungella National park and were searching in the area for an hour,” Mr Wakefield said. 

“We had a weak signal for the personal locator beacon and the decision was made to winch myself down and then I proceeded to search on foot for about half an hour before I found the patient.”

distress beacon
Keeley Wakefield said Monday’s rescue was his first major mission.

The tourist had left his campsite about 2pm and told his wife, who had no mobile phone reception, he would return by 4pm. 

Rocky terrain and a thick tree canopy made it impossible to get a visual from the air of the bushwalker. 

Mr Wakefield waded through a river and navigated thick bush.”He had a whistle and that attracted my attention and was the only reason I could really find him,” he said.

“After searching for a while, I realised he was actually on the other side of the river and that the best chance of me getting to him was to be winched back out and dropped closer to his exact location which was about 100 metres away.”

Mr Wakefield said he saw a flash from the man’s camera as he was being winched down again from the chopper.”When I finally found him he was taking my photo and saying ‘my rescuer is here’,” Mr Wakefield said.

“He was pretty happy to see me and doing really well all things considered.”

The helicopter was forced to return to base to refuel so the pair waited for almost two hours in the cold. 

“I think it was about four or five degrees out there,” Mr Wakefield said.

He said he had to move the man about 50 metres to where there was a hole in the canopy.”It was incredibly dark…I couldn’t see anything in front of me except for the fog from my breath,” he said.

“Even when the chopper came back to get us, we could hear it, but couldn’t even see it overhead.”

distress beacon
An injured bushwalker was flown to Mackay after being rescued by a helicopter crew.

Mr Wakefield has only been in the job seven months and said rescue missions like Monday’s were pretty rare. 

“I’m the newest guy here it was great to get that sort of rescue under my belt,” he said.

“This job is a dream come true for me.”

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