Road crash rescue team wins title again

Wanaka Road Rescue Team is made up of six members of the Wanaka Volunteer Fire Brigade: team leader Tony Wellman, medics Jodie Rainsford and Jarrod Wellman and technicals Travis Purnell, Mark Strang and Rob Thorp.

FENZ Wanaka has been announced as the overall winner of the Australasian Rescue Challenge for the second year in a row, after competing against 21 teams over three days in Dubbo, Australia, last month. 

Wanaka Road Rescue Team is made up of six members of the Wanaka Volunteer Fire Brigade: team leader Tony Wellman, medics Jodie Rainsford and Jarrod Wellman and technicals Travis Purnell, Mark Strang and Rob Thorp. 

The team trains almost every Sunday with damaged cars, or those ‘destined for the wreckers’, to simulate a real-life scenario and practise techniques. 

Roughly 20 cars are used for team training sessions each year, which are kindly donated by the Wanaka community. 

The majority of road crash rescue competitions, including the Australasian Rescue Challenge, consist of three scenarios to complete in 30 minutes: Entrapped, Time-Critical and Controlled. 

For the Entrapped scenario, a dummy is strapped heavily into the vehicle and the team members need to create space for medics to work and then free the dummy. 

The Time-Critical scenario involves a human patient with simulated wounds, lightly-trapped inside the vehicle, with deteriorating health that requires immediate intervention and extrication. 

Lastly, the Controlled scenario incorporates two human patients lightly-trapped inside the vehicle, again with simulated wounds. In this case team members need to focus on medical triage and prioritise extrication based on the patients’ needs. 

Tony says: “We use a range of tools including hydraulic rescue equipment. We have three separate hydraulic tools – a spreader, cutter and ram. The spreader is used for pushing things apart. The cutter is used to slice through metal. The ram is used for pushing parts of vehicles and equipment apart much wider than you can do with a spreader.”. 

Tony believes the two main challenges his team faces in competitions are fundraising in order to attend the events and the high calibre of New Zealand’s road crash rescue teams. 

Tony says: “It’s a privilege to represent the Wanaka Volunteer Fire Brigade and Wanaka community at these competitions. Being part of the competition assists us to refine our skills as firefighters and the knowledge we have gained from these events, and hopefully passed on, is priceless. We are very grateful to have the support of our Brigade, community, employers, partners and families - we couldn't do it without them. It is a big commitment but a rewarding one.”. 

Wanaka Volunteer Fire Brigade receives around 200 calls a year, with a third of these being motor vehicle accidents.

This September the team hopes to compete in the World Rescue Challenge in La Rochelle, France. 


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