07 December 2021
NRMA Insurance helicopter crew playing Santa near Forbes
Santa in the sky -a crew of volunteers from the NSW SES and RFS chopper in supplies and Christmas mail to help those cut off by floodwaters
Christmas came early for residents cut off by floodwaters outside Forbes in the NSW Central West. The recent heavy rains flooded the Lachlan River, badly impacting local businesses and families. But with no roads in or out of town, those living on 20 farms in rural Corinella needed outside help to receive their mail deliveries.
Their prayers were answered by an expert crew from the NSW SES, NSW RFS and NRMA Insurance. As a principal partner of NSW SES for a decade, NRMA Insurance brought in its helicopter team to help drop off packages to Corinella’s stranded residents and provide transport, if required.
The operation involved NRMA Insurance helicopter pilot Glenn Izzard, crewman Jaydyn Haigh, David Marks, Roc Walshaw and Sasha Baer from the NSW SES and Graeme Taylor from the RFS. NSW SES volunteer Sharon Buckley was the Air Base Manager helping to coordinate tasks and ensure the pilots and crews were looked after during operations.
Sharon says the special drop-offs included Christmas cards and gifts plus regular mail, magazines and online shopping orders. “The only way to get them in there is via helicopter,” says Sharon. “We’d drop off the parcels and all of the isolated residents would come to that spot and collect it.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet also joined the team of specialists aboard the helicopter to visit the region and speak to farmers and volunteers about the damage caused by the recent flood and the clean-up at hand.
The aircrew was also involved in vital reconnaissance work. They took a council worker up to assess the state of roads in the surrounding districts, and determine when they might be ready for reopening.
Sharon believes operations such as this one in Forbes helps build a true sense of community. “It's really great doing something operational where you can see the tangible benefit,” she says. “And when you're working with volunteers from other agencies, including NRMA Insurance, it just really builds a sense of esprit de corps.
“We form a really good team, and that stays with you. We're really appreciative of the help that NRMA Insurance has given us with this chopper. It's been fabulous.”
EPS Helicopter Services owner and pilot Geoff Sprod, who has operated the NRMA Insurance helicopter since 2017, says the Bell 212 Eagle Single is uniquely capable of helping people in emergency situations.
“The NRMA Insurance aircraft is just one of 13 worldwide and the only one in Australia,” he says. “All the seats in the back can be removed within five or 10 minutes. We can put well over a tonne of payload in the back of that aircraft, so it’s a good lifter.”
Geoff still gets a kick out of helping people in difficult circumstances, whether it be in a flood, bushfire or other emergency. “It's rewarding,” says Geoff. “When you get to people who are isolated – if they've been without something for days or weeks – it's always nice when you're greeted with a smile on the face and a big thank you.”
Forbes, Wee Waa and Walgett are bracing, as is Mungindi as flood waters continue to cause havoc right throughout New South Wales, indeed in Queensland as well.