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Drone phone, excavator and chainsaws used in rescue of family stranded during torrential downpour

By Mark Rigby, Thursday January 7, 2021 - 05:52 EDT
ABC image
Queensland SES personnel and police rescued the stranded group from the Kirrama Range Road around midday on Tuesday. - ABC

A Far North Queensland man has flipped the tradition of scrawling SOS into the sand and instead launched a request for help from far overhead.
After becoming stranded on a dirt road between two rising creeks on Monday night, the man attached his mobile phone to a drone and flew it into the air to send an SOS via text message.
State Emergency Service area controller James Gegg said it was a unique call for help.
"He was clever enough to think that if he typed the message on his phone and pressed send that it would keep trying to send until it got reception," Mr Gegg said.
"When he brought [the drone] back down he confirmed the message had been sent, so he did get reception ? that raised the alarm and people were able to activate."
Daytrip gone wrong
Mr Gegg said the group of four adults and a six-month-old baby had travelled up the Kirrama Range Road to look at Blencoe Falls, and had intended on completing a circuit by coming down another route.
He said when they got to the top of the range the creek feeding the waterfall was swollen so they decided to turn back.
"Coming back down, only about 20 kilometres from the bottom, they crossed one of the many creeks and unfortunately swamped the car," he said.
"The engine conked out and they couldn't get it going so they got out of the vehicle safely and needed to spend the night as it was quite late by that stage."
The group camped in a tent on the dirt road as ex-Tropical Cyclone Imogen dumped hundreds of millimetres of rain over north Queensland.
In the light of morning, the drone was launched and the rescue effort began in earnest.
Cutting and clearing a path to rescue
By that time, however, the weather had taken its toll on the road.
"Numerous trees had come down between the bottom of the range and where the group was," Mr Gegg said.
"Fortunately emergency services were joined by Cassowary Coast Council staff including a front-end loader, so they were able to push a path through along with SES volunteers working chainsaws.
"The group was very good and extremely happy to see everyone turning up for them, a little bit sheepish I think."
Mr Gegg said the rescue highlighted the need for people to plan ahead for their trips, particularly during severe weather events.
"Obviously in this case the group was very lucky and smart to think of using the drone to get a message out, but without that they would have been staying there until somebody missed them," he said.
"We highly recommend people going into remote areas to purchase a personal locator beacon.
"They're fairly inexpensive and they can get an emergency alert out very quickly with your exact GPS location."


© ABC 2021

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