The Warrnambool rescue helicopter HEMS4 has proved its worth for more than a decade, never more so than with back-to-back winch rescues this week.
Acting senior team manager HEMS4 Ben Hespe said the unit had performed six winch rescues in the past six weeks, culminating in Monday and Sunday's lifts.
"They are extremely high risk rescues," he said. "We did a rescue at the Grampians last month involving a woman and two young children who fell and fractured her ankle during a walk.
"They were not prepared for the wet and cold weather or to stay where they were overnight, so they were winched out.
"A good Samaritan who had been assisting them soon after got lost in the dark and we went back and got him out as well. Six winches in six weeks is not normal for us."
Sunday's rescue at Killarney involved a man being winched from a boat after it was caught on rocks.
On Monday morning a 20-year-old Melbourne man was winched after falling down a rock face at the remote Green Pools, about four kilometres from the Cape Bridgewater car park, in rugged terrain.
"He was climbing down the rocks to get to the pool when he tumbled about five metres," Mr Hespe said. "We believed he suffered a period of unconsciousness, as well as facial injuries, a fractured wrist and possibly pelvis/back injuries."
Portland police Sergeant Daniel Lehmann said it was extreme terrain.
"It took 30 minutes to walk in and if you fell over there you would get injured," he said.
"He slipped on the rocks and fell. By the time we got there HEMS4 came in, scooped him up and flew out. It wasn't going to be feasible to carry him out because of the challenges of that terrain. We were just getting there and he was in the process of being winched out.
"The HEMS4 is a magnificent service. I don't know what we did before it."
Mr Hespe said Monday's rescue posed unique circumstances as HEMS4 was pretty much first on the scene, due to the difficulty in emergency services personnel gaining access to the area.
He said the service was usually called in after emergency services were able to assess a situation - either it being too difficult to remove a patient or the seriousness of the patient's injuries.
"We generally do a job per day, trauma and medical. That's 30 a month and between 350 and 400 jobs per year," he said.
"For rescue helicopters that's a fairly low number but in terms of flying hours we are the highest because of the distances we cover. We live a long way away and the help we provide is often crucial."
Mr Hespe said it took about 55 minutes to fly from Warrnambool to Melbourne and about 35 minutes to Geelong.
"We have a cruising speed of 135 knots and a top speed of 170 knots, just over 300km/h," he said.
An Ambulance Victoria spokesperson said Air Ambulance paramedics were specially trained to perform advanced treatments in challenging environments.
"Based in Warrnambool, HEMS04 is one of three regionally based HEMS aircrafts which supplement the two HEMS and four fixed wing planes that operate from Air Ambulance Victoria's Essendon Fields base," he said.
"Most helicopter callouts are for life-threatening emergencies, which are mainly trauma and paediatric cases, while the fixed wing aircraft are used in emergencies and for the routine transport of non-emergency patients in rural and regional areas for important treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
"HEMS04 is critical in ensuring the best care can be provided to all Victorians, regardless of where they live. Air Ambulance services extend over 700,000 square kms across Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales."
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