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As a group of three we were on an overnight canyoning trip in the Blue Mountains. On our second day we had completed a short canyon down into the main gorge and the plan was to get up onto a ridge on the other side to descend another, longer canyon before returning back to camp. Being worn out for the days before, I decided to head back to camp after the first canyon already to get some rest for the next day while the other two continued as planned.
As I was still resting on a sunny rock half way up a ridge, I could hear my mate calling out for me from below. I'll never forget him shouting "Helen has fallen, I need you to set off your PLB also". I took my PLB which I always carry inside my first aid kit and activated it high up where I was at a spot with good visibility towards the northern sky where I knew the geostationary satellites would pick up the signal fast. Then I headed back down to the others. It turned out that while trying to find a path up to the ridge, the rock Helen was on had broken off, leading to a fall of 10-12 meters. She couldn't feel her legs and had trouble breathing. We immediately knew that this was a case of spinal injury. My mate had already activated Helen's PLB at the site, but because it was inside a gorge we knew that it could be a long time until the polar orbiting satellites would detect the signal. Thus, he asked me to set up mine higher up as well. We knew that this went against the usual recommendation to only use one PLB per incident, but in this case it seemed justified.
After a seemingly endless two hours of waiting, a helicopter arrived and after it was drawn to our position by a small fire, the fabulous helicopter crew winched down and later flew Helen into hospital. It turned out that they indeed responded to the PLB that was on high ground. The first one in the gorge only got picked up a couple hours later while the rescue operation was already in progress. Furthermore, the information provided during registration helped emergency services to quickly identify the two signals belonging to the same incident.
The information provided during registration helped emergency services to quickly identify the two signals belonging to the same incident.
Thank you ACR!
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