NSW Ambulance Special Operations Team paramedics have recorded incredible vision of the swiftwater rescue of two people caught in rising floodwater at Woodville near Rutherford.
SOT paramedics Jason Watson and Dan O’Shannessy paddled head-first into wind gusts in excess of 80km/h to reach the couple, who were sitting on the roof of their car frantically awaiting help as floodwaters raged around them.
The vision, filmed for training purposes, gives a first-hand view of the risks faced by paramedics and emergency services and the effort they go to in order to help those in need.
“We negotiated the boat over and around debris, through waves and in a strong swells and past a water level sign to get to the pair” Jason Watson, whose helmet camera captured the risky rescue, said.
The pair were located 300 metres from the bank in floodwater estimated to be four metres deep.
“It was a race against time for us to get to them. The levee to the left of the pair was beginning to overflow. We knew if it had burst before we got safely back to shore we would have all been washed downstream which could easily have proved fatal” Mr Watson said.
The water levels rose about 1.5 metres during the half-hour operation.
“It was tough going battling winds and the swell to get back to safety. There was a point where we weren’t sure if we were going to make it back to shore” Mr O’Shannessy said.
Pushed rapidly downstream from their target exit point as they paddled, the paramedics managed to wedge up against a tree, recover some strength and keep paddling back to dry ground.
The vision also shows Mr O’Shannessy leaning over the boat to push down a barbed wire fence, which punctured a hole in the boat.
NSW Ambulance paramedics assessed the pair on land. Incredibly, despite being cold and wet, they were otherwise uninjured.
This was not the only rescue NSW Ambulance paramedics and emergency services personnel have been involved in, prompting the following plea.
“All too often people underestimate the power and depth of even what appears to be low level floodwater,” Mr O’Shannessy said.
“We can’t stress to people strongly enough – do not drive through floodwater.
"It risks your safety, but also the safety of our paramedics when we have to come and assist you."