6-hour gorge rescue CFA unit’s toughest

EDITORIAL:  Thanks for rescue efforts

THE six-hour mission to lift a father and son 300 metres up Beechworth Gorge on Monday night was the Mount Beauty CFA’s biggest job in 18 years of rope rescues.

The Wodonga pair had been swimming in Spring Creek Falls — part of the gorge — when they got into trouble.

The boy, 15, was released from Wangaratta Hospital after being treated for cuts, scratches and a head injury.

His father remained at his bedside after earlier being released.

Ambulance officers reached the scene about 4.30pm.

They were joined soon after by members of the Beechworth CFA.

“It quickly became apparent that we would need a specialist rescue unit to help us out,” Beechworth lieutenant Ron Walters said.

Plans to winch the pair from the gorge by air had to be abandoned because of strong wind.

“It was the hardest, definitely longest, rescue because of the rocks and very steep terrain,” Beechworth SES deputy controller Rikki Loveday said.

Emergency services officers worked under flood light as first the boy and then his father — about 90 minutes later at 10.30pm — were hauled to the top.

Mount Beauty CFA lieutenant Don Mason said while the rescue mission was “technical and long, it was very satisfying”.

“It took more than five hours because we had to set up our system three times because of the 300-metre drop,” he said.

“We had two lines in case one failed and a second safety line.

“It’s definitely the biggest job we have done and we have been rope rescue-accredited for about 18 years.”

The first rope line involved pulling the pair, who were put on to stretchers, out of the creek.

“We had to re-do the rope system over a series of distances,” Mr Mason said.

“The father had concerns for his son, but he was talking throughout the ordeal and seemed to be in high spirits.”

The pair were carried the final 60 to 80 metres out of the gorge on stretcher by members of the Beechworth SES.

Mr Mason praised the work of more than 50 personnel from Beechworth, Stanley, Wodonga, Wodonga West and Mount Beauty CFAs, as well as members of Beechworth SES.

“Emergency agencies worked well together and got the ultimate result of getting the pair out safely,” he said.

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