Many years ago, must be 15 or so by now, I was invited by the Victorian Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs (VAFWDC), now trading as Four Wheel Drive Victoria, to observe a training day that they were conducting for paying members of the public in the Toolangi area north east of Melbourne. I was a member of a 4WD Club at the time and this was when the VAFWDC was initiating a formal training certification program for 4WD clubs, and it provided an opportunity to observe and comment on their training concepts.
The training program was ‘interesting’ to say the least but, during the day’s program, while I was on the sidelines, a young trail bike rider came to me saying there’d been an accident and whether we could help. I followed the rider to the accident site where I found a young girl, Elisabeth (or is it with a ‘z’?), with the heel of her foot entangled in the spokes of a trail bike. Elisabeth had been riding pillion with her boyfriend when her heel caught in the spokes, causing the bike to fall and her heel to get caught and be badly cut with a spoke becoming embedded in her heel.
I immediately went on the radio to contact the association trip leader to relay what had happened, only to be confronted with a cacophony of radio chatter of no help whatsoever, as everyone had to get in on the act. In a brief gap I managed to get a word in and silence the lot, and then set up a single line of communication. The immediate task was to get someone to contact 000 and call for an ambulance, as I had no mobile phone signal and the second thing was to see if anyone could provide blankets or the like, as I had none, to help the girl who was in some distress, as well as being cold and wet (but not in shock).
I didn’t take any photographs while attending to Elisabeth, prior to the paramedics arriving. It was furthest from my mind at the time and I wouldn’t have thought it appropriate in any case.
Luckily, someone had blankets and there was also a nurse amongst the group. I requested one vehicle to bring the nurse and blankets to the area and that everyone else stay away, leaving clear access for the ambulance. There wasn’t much that we dared do regarding Elisabeth’s foot and we both agreed that it was best to keep the pressure on the heel until the paramedics arrived, in case we released a blood vessel and subsequent blood flow that we might not be able to stem, as well as creating unnecessary pain if the pressure was released. Elisabeth wasn’t in a lot of pain, was coherent and seemed to be in good spirits now that we were there, so best to leave well enough alone until the paramedics could attend to her.
Unfortunately, because of our location, the ambulance was unable to get to where we were, not being a 4WD, so I drove to meet them and transferred the paramedics, gurney and equipment to my 4WD. It was clear that Elisabeth needed to get to hospital fairly quickly and so the air ambulance had been arranged. By this time, the police had arrived as well and they had identified a hilltop not too far away where the air ambulance could land safely to pick up Elisabeth. My Patrol being the only vehicle capable of carrying Elisabeth on a gurney, as well as the paramedics (albeit a very tight fit), we followed the police 4WD to the landing site.
Now anyone who has been to Toolangi on a Winter’s day (as I think it was), knows that it’s always wet, boggy and replete with swollen water holes and creeks, with slippery and steep(ish) tracks. Despite all those obstacles, and I think we encountered every one of them, we made it to the hilltop to meet the air ambulance and safely transfer Elisabeth to the helicopter. I never did find out how Elisabeth eventually fared, but her departing smile said it all as far as I’m concerned.
When emergencies happen, there’s no room for panic, confusion or debate, someone has to be decisive and take charge, and everyone else involved has to acknowledge and accept that decision unless someone is better placed to do so. Too many times I’ve been involved in these situations and there’s never any room for indecision, as indecision can often lead to tragic events. This is one of three trail bike rescues I’ve been involved in over the years and, hopefully, I never see another one again.