September 20, 2018 11:46:56
The helicopter pilot who flew Tasmanian tourist Justine Barwick to hospital after a shark attack in the Whitsundays has described the “fortuitous” circumstances that may have saved her life.
The 46-year-old woman was swimming from a charter yacht in Cid Harbour when she was bitten on the upper right leg about 5:00pm on Wednesday.
Suffering horrific injuries, Ms Barwick — who works for Family Based Care in north-west Burnie — was pulled out of the water and onto a nearby yacht, which happened to have a doctor on board.
She was then placed inside a dinghy and winched up to the helicopter.
RACQ CQ Rescue pilot Kevin Berry said it was a difficult situation
“[It was] very fortuitous that time, people and resources where there when we needed them,” he said.
“The rescue itself was tricky due to the tall mast on the hire yacht and that large number of boats in the area.
“So to hover over the boat to rescue directly from the boat would have blown the boat around.
“The simplest operation was what we did, putting her into the rubber duckie off the back of the boat and winching them from there.
“It took about 45 minutes.”
Mr Berry said another miraculous occurrence was the fact the rescue helicopter was low on fuel and had to divert to Proserpine.
“The fact the chopper did not have enough fuel to fly direct to Mackay ended up being a lucky break for the shark attack victim,” Mr Berry said.
“We were ten minutes short of fuel to come back to Mackay [so] we went to Proserpine to refuel.
“[It] would have been ideal to go to Hamilton Island but they did not have any fuel at the time,” he said.
“Blood was delivered to the team at the same time we landed.
“It gave the paramedic time to work on the casualty a little bit more stabilise her, as fluids were needed straight away.
“So it was maybe fortuitous landing at Proserpine, it got the fluids to her quicker than having to come back to Mackay.
“It all came together really quick.”