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On 4th April, a group of bushwalkers in Girraween National Park, New South Wales, Australia, was successfully rescued by helicopter just two hours after getting into distress and activating their McMurdo FastFind 211 Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).
The party, comprising five students (16/17 years old) and one teacher from Hillbrook Anglican School, Everton Park, Queensland, had been bushwalking in the Bald Rock area, 12NM north of Tenterfield, which has limited vehicular access. The party took the decision to activate the PLB when the teacher fell and broke an ankle, and was unable to proceed any further.
The compact 406MHz PLB, which the school had purposely hired for the expedition from epirbhire.com.au, emitted a distress signal on the global rescue satellite system, which included the PLB’s GPS location. Despite the party’s remote location, the search and rescue authorities received the distress signal and responded immediately, tasking a helicopter from Lismore. The helicopter crew were guided to the party’s precise location by the FastFind 211’s GPS signal and its 121.5MHz homing signal. Within two hours of activating the PLB, the injured teacher had been recovered and was being airlifted to hospital for treatment.
“The teacher found the PLB very easy to activate, even though neither the teacher nor the students had used one before,” said Craig Merritt, Deputy Principal at Hillbrook Anglican School. “We have approximately 22 groups of Year 12 students currently involved in expeditions in various parts of Australia and New Zealand as part of our Outdoor Education programme. All our expedition groups have a personal locator beacon as a mandatory part of their safety equipment.”