Home' Navy News : February 3rd 2011 Contents 14
THEIR eyes -- you could see the
fear in them and it wasn't just
the little kids but grown men and
women too -- they were abso-
lutely terrified," Shark 22's LSA Ben
McNeil recalled of his interaction with
the residents they rescued that fateful
day.It was 3am when JTF 637's Shark 21
and Shark 22 crews from 817 Squadron
began preparing to fly from Oakey Air
Base to RAAF Base Amberley to assist
with flood evacuations in the Lockyer
Valley on January 11.
Captain of Shark 22, LCDR Tanzi
Lea, said that both helicopters were
forced to land en route to Amberley
because the weather was so fierce.
Shark 21 Aircrewman CPO Kerwyn
Ballico said the cloud cover was so thick
that the aircraft's radar had difficulty
"We were surrounded by thunder, tor-
rential rain and lightning," CPO Ballico
When the Sea Kings arrived at
Amberley, they were immediately tasked
to assist JTF 637 Black Hawks 201 and
220, and three civilian helicopters, in
evacuating more than 100 flood-affected
Forest Hill residents five nautical miles
west to the Gatton Sports Ground.
The contingent arrived at Forest Hill
and Shark 21 offloaded three personnel,
LSA James Inglish, ABATA Anthony
Peters and POIS Damian Pawlenko, to
assist Queensland Police control and
prepare the residents to embark on the
"Once we were airborne the residents
saw their houses from the air -- most of
them broke down in tears," CPO Ballico
"No-one had shoes on -- it was as
if they were relaxing in front of their
TV and all of a sudden had to go," LSA
Once Forest Hill's residents were
safe, Shark 21 and Shark 22 received a
call to assist with the evacuation of 160
residents from one side of Laidley to the
CPO Ballico said the township had
When they heard about Toowoomba's horrific flash floo
crews of Joint Task Force 637's Sea King helicopters, S
immediately began preparing to assist. Little did they k
pivotal role in rescuing about 200 Queenslanders from
Lockyer Valley region the next day. ABCIS Melanie Sch
LCDR Scott Palmer -- Captain
LEUT Simon Driessen -- Co-Pilot
CPO Kerwyn Ballico -- Aircrewman
PO Nick Anderson -- Aircrewman
PO Damian Pawlenko -- Imagery
LS James Inglish -- Aircrewman
AB Anthony Peters -- Technician
The crew of Shark 21:
Evacuated 11 Forest Hill residents
to the Gatton Sports Ground
Evacuated 50 Laidley residents to
Rescued one man by winch out of
an overflowed creek in Laidley
been cut in two by the torrent of water
flowing from the nearby hills.
"The Black Hawk and civilian chop-
pers joined us. It was a small town and
not everyone had to be evacuated, so we
moved a lot of people fairly quickly."
LSA McNeil said that once the resi-
dents were on the aircraft he tried to
comfort and reassure them.
"I would give them a thumbs up or
pat on the back. Human contact seemed
to help them a lot, especially the elder-
ly," he said.
"Babies were very hard to accommo-
date. We let the mothers hold onto them
because they were too small to strap in.
They were screaming -- all the noise in
the aircraft must have hurt their little
ears, so we put earmuffs on them and
that seemed to calm them down."
During Shark 21's last run from
Laidley Hospital, its Captain, LCDR
Scott Palmer, spotted a man wearing a
yellow life jacket in the swollen creek.
CPO Ballico said he decided to lower
POA Nick Anderson down on the winch
with a strop to intercept the man as he
moved down the creek towards them.
"The guy in the creek saw us and
Aviation maintainers scamper
inside the hangar as the heavy
rain sets in at Roma airport.
OFF TO SAFETY: A Sea
King helicopter contain-
ing Forest Hill residents
departs for Gatton.
BUSY DAY: LSA Ben
McNeil walks out of a
Sea King upon arriving
at Roma airport.
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