Ambos of the air
Ambos of the air Michael Leavy, left, Allan Newbold and Clinton van der Westthuyzen at the Jandakot HQ. Picture: Steve Ferrier / The West Australian

A frightened teenager perched on the edge of a 1000m-high mountain as night approaches. A distraught husband nursing his wife alongside a wrecked car on a country road.

An injured sailor awaiting rescue as enormous waves pound his boat.

For West Australians caught in life-threatening emergencies, often the first face they see is one of nine "ambos of the air" who have responded to thousands of call-outs over the past decade.

RELATED: Mountain biker saved by phone tracker

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services' RAC Rescue chopper has attended a record 339 emergencies this financial year - about 42 missions per month and a 40 per cent increase on the same time last year.

On board the yellow chopper is one of St John Ambulance's critical care paramedics, who witness tragedy and save lives each day.

Seven years into the role, CCP Allan Newbold says no two days are ever the same.

"It is demanding and challenging, but it can be one of the most rewarding jobs you can do," he said.

Traffic accidents are the most common callouts, but search and rescue missions can often place the paramedics in precarious situations.

Mr Newbold and fellow CCP Jason Boschin described a dramatic sea rescue in the middle of winter as one of their most memorable jobs.

The men were sent to a Chinese fishing trawler 80km off Yallingup, where a sailor had been knocked unconscious.

"We winched down on to the deck, waves were breaking over our heads," Mr Boschin said.

"When you're standing on the side of a ship and you see waves that are taller than the ship, it's pretty daunting, you tend to hold on a lot tighter."

The man was winched to safety and flown to Royal Perth Hospital for treatment.

Mr Boschin said the job took a huge physical and emotional toll, particularly when paramedics were confronted with traffic fatalities.

"Quite often you're going to a fatality and transporting a surviving family member, and that's pretty hard to deal with," he said.

Mr Newbold said it was frustrating to attend the scene of fatal crashes caused by speed or alcohol.

"You think of the waste, what could have been but will never be," he said. "And you always have that feeling of empathy for them, and the family left behind."

Mr Newbold will never forget the day in 2011 when he attended a campsite fire in Mandurah that claimed the lives of two teenagers and their father.

"That was the only job where I've felt totally medically overwhelmed, because there was nothing I could do for them," he said.

But for every tragic outcome, there is a memory of a happy ending - such as the time Mr Boschin and the team rescued a pregnant woman from a car accident near Serpentine.

"She went into cardiac arrest a few times but we managed to revive her and the baby was born . . . that's one that sticks in my head," Mr Boschin said.

Mr Boschin was also involved in the rescue of a teenager from Toolbrunup peak in the Stirling Ranges in 2012.

"That was a very tricky one," he said. "He had fallen 10m on to a ledge. I couldn't winch straight down to him, so I had to go further up and walk down with the equipment - there was time pressure with mist and fog coming in."

To become a CCP, paramedics must have three years experience on the road and pass a rigorous round of physical and mental tests.

SJA manager of metropolitan operations Bruce Fraser said there had been growing demand for the chopper in recent months, particularly at long weekends when more motorists were on the road.

About 11 per cent of callouts are within a 50km radius, with 48 per cent of jobs falling beyond 150km of the city and 41 per cent within 100km of Perth.

"We have a good group of dedicated and skilled officers, who do their jobs well," he said.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West