The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter paid a special visit to Mentone Grammar School, where Angus Jackson and Siobhan Phillips, both aged ten and in Year 4, watched on as the crew members were presented with a $500 cheque the school had fundraised for the service.
“I really enjoyed the helicopter visit, it was the best incursion I’ve ever seen and very entertaining!” said Angus. “I knew some of the things the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter did, but not all. The best thing was meeting the pilots, I’d like to do that when I grow up. I don’t do nippers at the moment, but I’ll probably join up now!”
“I was very excited to see them arrive because I’ve never been up in a helicopter and I really want to,” said Siobhan. “One day I might like to be a female crew member on the chopper, so I think I might join nippers now, too. It was really interesting and I didn’t realise the crew had to go down into the water to pull people back up.”
Suzanne Wood, GM for Westpac was on hand to talk about the extent of the helicopter service’s role in the community as it patrols along Victoria’s busy coastline from Waratah to Apollo Bay, as well as providing valuable back-up support for state emergencies and search and rescue (SAR) operations.
“Since 1973 when the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter started, it’s been on 80,000 missions,” said Suzanne. “We’re proud to say the service is completely free for people being rescued.”
It took just 90 seconds for the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter to get from its Moorabbin base to the school grounds, carrying with it crew members Isaak Newcombe and Liam O’Callaghan, as well as helicopter pilot Peter Nelson.
On arrival, they assigned Surina Morris, aged 4, the role of their youngest crew member, kitted her up with harness and helmet and did a mock rescue with classmate Freya Richard, to applause from the children watching.
The school visit comes before the scheduled aerial patrols of the coastline officially begin, which will see the helicopter operate on weekends and public holidays from mid-November until the end of the April School Holidays, with increased patrols operating throughout the busiest summer period from 24th December to the 26th January. It’s also available for emergency assistance year-round.
Funded by the generous support of Westpac, the Lifesaver Rescue helicopters in Victoria are equipped to assist in incidents such as shark patrols, beacon location (EPIRB homing), static line rescues, SAR of lost swimmers, missing boats and fishermen in distress, as well as providing support in inland emergencies such as fire and flood.
Patrol season also starts next month for Bayside lifesaving clubs, when the red and yellow flags are raised again for the Victorian summer lifesaving season. Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter crew members are also dedicated lifesaving volunteers, so educated the children on the importance of water safety as the weather warms up.
Life Saving Victoria’s Manager of Operations Greg Scott said the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service is a key part of LSV’s role in preventing and responding to emergencies.
“Children have all spotted the red Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter in the sky, but to find out the breadth of work the service offers is a real eye-opener for them,” says Greg. “Responding to many emergencies every year, the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter crew are well placed to share their helicopter rescue stories and highlight the important water safety messages as they do.”