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Media Releases | St John Ambulance
AMBULANCE: An outback rescue
  21 May 2021

The breathtaking scenery of the 223km Larapinta Trail runs from the Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Mount Sonder (Rwetyepme) in stunning Arrernte Country. Whilst incredibly beautiful, the trail can be unpredictable and at times, dangerous.

Enter emergency services.

It’s the time of year when emergency services all over the Territory are preparing to ramp up their responses as tourists make their way up the Stuart Highway to enjoy the best the Dry Season has to offer.

Whether its snatch-strapping a Prado out of a riverbed, airlifting someone from a remote hiking trail or finding a lost bushwalker, emergency rescues come in many forms.

Last week, a woman embarked on a five-day stint on the Larapinta Trail before she tripped and fell. Using her hands to break her fall, her wrist was fractured and she was unable to continue the walk.

“We are fortunate in Alice Springs to have great access to adventure trails that often have mobile phone coverage, but this is definitely a reminder to bring a satellite phone or an EPIRB if you plan to go out remote.” Regional Manager Southern Paul Bellman told ABC’s Alex Barwick.

“Fortunately there were people on the tour that knew first aid, so they had her wrist bandaged and ready to go. When paramedics got there, they put a splint on and administered medication for the pain.”

As the patient was close to the beginning of the trail, paramedics were able to reach her within about thirty minutes. Upon arrival, St John NT paramedics realised extricating the patient was going to be more difficult than expected, and called upon the SES for assistance. The device paramedics needed was a single-wheeled stretcher that is used for rescues on rough or mountainous terrain.

Clinical Services Manager Duncan McConnell explained how it works.

“The stretcher has rails around the sides so it’s sort of a basket shape. It sits on top of a wide tyre that helps the device move over rough terrain whilst being able to keep the patient relatively stable – like a 4WD stretcher.”

With the patient on the stretcher provided by the SES, getting her off the trail was simple and she was transported to hospital in a stable condition.

Less than a week earlier and 8kms further along the Larapinta, a call was made to St John NT requesting assistance. Frances had fallen and injured her ankle, but being 10kms into the trail, was at a point that was harder to access.

An initiative between St John NT Southern Region and Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife was established in November 2020 that allowed for shared access to radio communications.

Paul Bellman explained:

“Over the COVID period we have had time to prepare and get our policies and procedures down pat with the other emergency organisations, police, SES and NT Parks and Wildlife.”

Thanks to this preparation, rangers and paramedics were able to coordinate their response and get the 4WD ambulance within 500m of the patient.

“We were amazed how close they got to me after I slipped coming down a hill! Thanks to the timely response of all involved I was able to be operated on that night and flew back to Sydney two days later.

"It has been a week now and I am recovering well – I am trying to be a good patient so I make the best recovery possible and can get back and visit the amazing beauty of the Northern Territory and its wonderful people!”

Frances and her husband both sang the praises of the paramedics and rangers who attended the incident.

“There are not enough superlatives to describe the quality, friendliness and professionalism of the crew who made an otherwise traumatic and painful experience into an efficient and relatively comfortable adventure."

“It was not the ending I had planned after an amazing two weeks in the Territory but I couldn’t have asked for better care from the rangers, paramedics, surgical and nursing staff of Alice Springs Hospital.”

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