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RFDS, Rio praised for life-saving flight

Rio Tinto employee, John McArthur, right, with RFDS CEO Grahame Marshall, top, and Rio Tinto manager Clayton Walker. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

A 54-year-old father of two has praised the combined efforts of Rio Tinto and the Royal Flying Doctor Service after he suffered a gastric aneurysm at a Karratha mine site.

Rio employee John McArthur was preparing for a meeting on January 28 when his vision went blurry and he collapsed.

Quick thinking from Rio colleagues meant Mr McArthur was soon on his way to Nickol Bay Hospital where clinical staff diagnosed internal bleeding of the stomach.

The retrieval doctor at the RFDS Port Hedland base prioritised Mr McArthur’s need for treatment ahead of another patient and arranged a plane to be on the Karratha tarmac before the ambulance arrived.

The doctor also ensured blood supplies were aboard the aircraft as it flew to Perth.

“I realise what could have happened if the RFDS wasn’t there,” Mr McArthur said. “It was by all reports a pretty close thing so I’m extremely grateful for all those involved.

“It was a flawless evacuation from site.”

Rio Tinto Pilbara supply chain managing director Clayton Walker said the swift transportation of Mr McArthur validated the company’s ongoing sponsorship of the flying doctor.

Rio Tinto last year committed another $6 million for the RFDS Life Flight aeromedical jet.

By 2016 the mining giant would have contributed $11 million in 10 years.

“For us the most important thing is people’s health and safety,” Mr Walker said. “It brings us that peace of mind that we’re able to provide a service for all of the people of WA.”

RFDS WA has a current fleet of 15 aircraft, including 14 PC12 aircraft and the Hawker jet which Rio underwrites