South Australia’s Tom Eltridge-Smith, a volunteer conservationist, and president of the SA Mitsubishi 4X4 association, considers himself a very fortunate man.
Whilst assisting with a Cactus Eradication program on a remote outback property some 500 kms from Adelaide the experienced bushman experienced a shortage of breath and acute pain in his chest, arms and neck. At this point the realisation hit Tom that he was almost certainly having a heart attack.
One of his colleagues used his two way radio to call other team members who were working closer to where the group vehicles were parked; apprising them of Tom’s situation and instructing them to immediately return to the parking area to activate the GME PLB stowed in Tom’s 4×4.
Given the hostile nature of the terrain, it was a further 40 minutes before the beacon could be triggered.
Tom Eltridge-Smith recalls; “It was around 10 am when I started to get short of breath. From that point on time become meaningless. The only thing I could do was fight to breath and deal with the pain; I had learnt a long time ago that coughing as vigorously as possible could assist with surviving a heart attack which is what I did with every bit of energy I could muster.“
Meanwhile the GME Personal Locator Beacon had been activated; the distress signal and GPS position received by the Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra and a search and rescue mission was initiated.
The RCC immediately contacted the South Australian Emergency Services who in turn scrambled the Leigh Creek Mine rescue team who eventually carried Tom out to an ambulance waiting on the nearest accessible road.
By 6.30pm Tom was in the local hospital where doctors confirmed he had suffered a heart attack, he was stabilised and eventually transferred by the Royal Flying Doctor service to the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Eltridge-Smith continued: “I am now fully recovered and doing very well. I have absolutely no doubt, that because of my isolated location and unfavourable terrain; the outcome could have been very different if not for the swift actions of my colleagues, rescue authorities, medical staff and my GME PLB. I owe everyone a very special thanks to everyone involved. There are two key lessons to be learnt from this experience; Keep people informed of where you are going, and most importantly, keep your Emergency Beacon with you. Don’t leave it in a vehicle when you go out bush.”
GME PLBs are available throughout Australia and the world from a network of authorised dealers and distributors.