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20 November, 2020

Help from the heavens

A helicopter pilot who rushed to the aid of a car accident victim on a remote cattle station in North Queensland has been crowned the 2020 Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) Local Hero Award winner for the Cairns region.

James Telford was working on Van Rook Station when alerted to a car accident elsewhere on the property, which is located on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

One of the first on scene, James realised that the sole passenger needed urgent medical attention after her car blew a tire and crashed into a tree.

“When I first saw the car, I thought, ‘this is really bad,’” said Mr Telford.

“I was panicking big time. The front of the car was completely caved in, and the dash and everything was pushed right up on her, and the steering wheel had a big bend in it which must’ve been from her head, and the windscreen was smashed out.

“She was shaking and her eyes were rolling in the back of her head. I knew we couldn’t stay there, we had to get something happening before her adrenaline stopped.”

Knowing that a neighbouring station contained an airstrip on which the RFDS could land, James loaded the semi-conscious victim into his helicopter and flew her to Dorunda Station.

“When I put her in and strapped her arms in the seat, I said ‘Whatever you do, don’t move.’ I was flying pretty low and ready to land if something did go wrong.”

James, along with fellow staff from the Gulf Coast Agricultural Company, were able to further assist the patient until the RFDS crew could land and transport her back to Cairns.

RFDS nurse Susan Markwell said Mr Telford’s actions had enabled the patient to make a full recovery.

“What James did highlights the resourcefulness and resilience of the country folk,” she said.

“They just step up to the plate, use their smarts, get it done, and walk over hot coals to save somebody else. The situation could’ve been dire and the outcome could’ve been much worse.”

James is among nine Local Hero Award winners – each from one of the RFDS’s nine base locations in Queensland.

Ravenshoe couple Jean and Mervyn Shaw were also recognised for their support of the Service with the Hugh McKay Award.

Queenslanders are now encouraged to vote for which of the nine they would like to win the overall Queensland Local Hero Award, who would win a $7,500 grant to give back to their community.

The annual Local Hero Awards, proudly supported by Ergon Energy Retail, Seven News Queensland and Queensland Country Life, recognise Queenslanders who have donated their time and energy to keep the Flying Doctor in the air and assisting the communities which need it the most.

Vote for the 2020 Queensland RFDS Local Hero by visiting

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