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Budawangs Rescue - 18th May 1995

Letter to Patrol Commander, Ulladulla Police from Russ Evans

Dear Sir,

On Thursday, May 18th, I was part of a team from Shoalhaven Bushwalkers which participated in the effort to retrieve an injured woman from the Budawangs within the Morton National park. Weather conditions were poor and the route chosen to reach the forward camp was traversed by several flooded creeks. When the vehicles were blocked at the first of these, we were able to find a safe crossing point upstream and continued on foot in a party led by Constable Manuel Verzosa of Wollongong and Constable Andrew Burden of Ulladulla. On reaching Sallee Creek it was found that this was also in flood but no easy crossing point was available. A decision was made to take a smaller party across using a rope with the bulk of the volunteers remaining on the west bank.

A number of people crossed with the assistance of Constable Burden but, during the course of the operation, the flood water continued to rise. When one of the volunteers appeared to be in some difficulty, Constable Burden assisted him to regain his footing and brought him back to the western bank. At this point, the transfer of volunteers was stopped but Constable Burden returned across the creek to the eastern bank. The members of the Shoalhaven team were impressed by the conduct of both officers. At all times, they were careful of the safety and well-being of the volunteers and put themselves at risk by testing the depth and force of flood waters before anyone else was allowed to enter. At Sallee Creek, Constable Burden personally assisted each of the volunteers which meant that he had to cross and re-cross the Creek many times. To do this required a great deal of effort and disregard for personal safety as the crossing point was only a short distance upstream from the much larger Endrick River which was flowing with considerable force and velocity. At its meeting of June 1st, Shoalhaven Bushwalkers Inc. resolved to commend the conduct of both officers and, in particular, the efforts of Constable Burden during the crossing of Sallee Creek.

Follow-up Letter to Patrol Commander, Ulladulla Police from Russ Evans

Dear Sir,

The following is a supplementary comment to the enclosed letter concerning the fine performance of the two policemen who led the support group into the Budawangs on Thursday, May 18th. The members of the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers team which took part in that part of the exercise were less favourably impressed with some other aspects of the operation as a whole. It is appreciated that it is very easy to be critical with the benefit of hindsight and that people who are on the spot must make decisions as they see the circumstances at the time. Consequently, we offer the following observations in the hope that they will be regarded as constructive.

* As the woman was not badly injured and not in a life threatening condition, one option which should have been considered is to have kept her under shelter until the weather cleared. The saddle between Mount Tarn and Mount Haughton has a number of caves which provide excellent shelter.

* On arrival at Nerriga, the Shoalhaven team queried the use of the chosen route rather than the one via Newhaven Gap. We were told that the latter was impassable but subsequent events showed that this was not correct. An examination of the map will show that the catchments of the two creeks which cross this road are quite small and considerably less than those which cross the Nerriga - Vines route. This indicates that they would be less likely to create a barrier by flooding.

* The clothing of a number of the volunteers - particularly the use of cotton overalls - was not appropriate for the conditions. Fortunately the temperature was relatively mild and there was little wind. If a strong wind had sprung up the 'wind chill' factor could have caused problems for some of the volunteers. We believe that this is something which should be considered by the organisations which are called upon to assist in search and rescue in the bush. Our Club would be happy to show any of these groups the range of modem clothing and equipment which is now available.

In conclusion, may I repeat how favourably we were impressed by the conduct of the two officers who took in the support party.

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