• Tony Bosworth

Hawkesbury SES - 35 years today rescuing people and animals

Thirty-five years ago today someone picked up the phone to answer a distress call.

It was the very first time Hawkesbury SES swung into action.

And today, as the Hawkesbury unit celebrates that 35 years of service to the community, four of the original crew are still out there rescuing people and animals across the Hawkesbury.

Kevin Jones, Michael Broome, David King and Darryl Lever are still manning the vehicles and making sure the equipment is ready.

Hawkesbury SES Unit Commander Kevin Jones on duty in 1985

On the 1st October 1985, NSWSES Hawkesbury Unit became the official rescue service for the Hawkesbury local government area.

Hawkesbury SES's Ian Craft with the unit's first rescue vehicle in 1985 - a Ford F350

Throughout the 1950s, ‘60s and early 1970s, people trapped in car or truck accidents were most often released by local ambulance officers and police through skill and determination, or by getting locals to help pull wrecks apart, or if there was one handy, using an oxy-acetylene torch to cut through the vehicle's metal.

During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s requests for rescue was tasked either to the Nepean Rescue Squad (Volunteer Rescue Association) at Penrith or the Police Rescue Squad based at Blacktown – each a good half hours drive to get into the Hawkesbury.

Hawkesbury SES training with the Police Rescue Squad, 1985

The need for a dedicated rescue squad in the Hawkesbury was clear. With the help of the NSW Police Rescue Squad, Hawkesbury volunteers were trained and ready to take on their new rescue role.

On December 4, 1985, at 4.20pm on Terrace Road, North Richmond, the squad were called to their first car accident where people were trapped.

And 35 years later those four members of the original crew are still responding to rescue calls throughout the Hawkesbury.

"Our unit is the busiest in the State," David King, 59, told the Post. "We get two or three call outs every week. We do have a very close team and I think that's the strength of our crew and that's partly why we're still doing the job."

Hawkesbury SES rescue training - 1985

Mr King said the crew have to deal with many different emergencies due to the Hawkesbury's large geographic size, its mix of rural and towns, and its many roads, as well as large bush areas.

Mr King says the reason he is still doing the job is because he and his mates are helping the community.

"The great feeling you get when someone looks you in the eye and says thank-you is unbeatable."

The crew even starred in an episode of A Country Practice back in the 1980s

Mr King said he especially liked rescuing animals and particularly remembers one incident where he and the team spent hours trying to rescue a dog who'd got trapped in a wombat burrow.

"There was many, many hours of digging but to see that dog come back up out of that hole was one of the best moments."

When will Mr King retire? "As long as I an get up out of my walking frame, " he jokes, "I'll carry on."

He says he and his colleagues were on a job this weekend and they were working with the newest member of the team, and that was very special.

"We're all volunteers and now we're passing on our experience to the newer members of the team, we're helping train the next generation."

Let's give them a big hand, after all they've been giving Hawkesbury residents a helping hand for a very long time.

Pictures courtesy of David King

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