ONE year on from a frightening car crash, Red Hill resident James Clark-Kennedy met and thanked the “volunteer heroes” who worked through a storm to rescue him from the wreckage.
On Friday, 30 September 2022, Clark-Kennedy and his family visited Dromana fire station to meet 14 of the local CFA firefighters from Dromana and Red Hill, who were at the scene that night.
It was just after 5pm on 30 September 2021 when CFA crews were called to a complex rescue operation at Moat’s Corner on White Hill Road in Dromana.
Crews from Dromana, Mount Martha, Red Hill, Rosebud and Mornington fire brigades performed a two-and-a-half-hour rescue operation alongside Fire Rescue Victoria, paramedics, SES and Victoria Police.
When they arrived on scene, firefighters found a car that appeared to have travelled about 20 metres across a culvert and was wedged between large pine trees about four metres above ground.
The steep and rough terrain made access an issue, as crews had to clear thick undergrowth and vegetation surrounding the incident scene, all while persisting throughout inclement, stormy weather.
“We all see, hear and read about the horror stories that come of motor vehicle incidents every day and these first responders see it firsthand,” Clark-Kennedy said. “In my case, this team achieved a successful rescue and got me out safely.
“As I lay in a hospital bed days later, I read the details of the incident and was blown away by the complexity and challenges they faced during the rescue.”
Clark-Kennedy said he suffered an epileptic seizure while driving, which led to the crash. Dromana firefighters had told him it was the most severe crash they had attended where the occupant inside the vehicle had survived.
Since the crash, Clark-Kennedy said he wanted to meet and thank the rescuers but had only recently felt able.
“I wanted to show my gratitude for the incredible work the rescue crews performed,” he said.
“While I don’t remember the actual incident, I do have memories of the rescue and I remember the amazing people, who were incredibly skilled, determined, and compassionate.
“I remember the huge effort around me to remove the roof in the horrible rain and cold weather and at every moment I felt consoled by these phenomenal firefighters and rescue crews.
“For me it was an epileptic seizure, but for others it could be a different medical episode; things can go wrong at any time, and we are so fortunate these people live in our communities and are here to help.”
Dromana Fire Brigade CFA Captain Tim Desmond was the incident controller on the night and recalled the teamwork between the agencies to overcome the various challenges.
“Crews worked tirelessly to gain access to the vehicle and provide first aid and support to James,” he said.
“They operated under extreme conditions and tough terrain and adapted to several changes to the rescue plan to overcome challenges.
“At the time, our brigade had just received new battery-operated rescue tools, which provided additional capability to free James during the technical rescue.”
Desmond said it was good for the brigade to see Clark-Kennedy making a positive recovery and to meet his family.
“Everyone was grateful to see James and his family doing well after the crash a year ago – we don’t always get to close out these stories with a positive ending.”
Clark-Kennedy also recalled that no matter how panicked he felt during the rescue, he was always assured that it was under control by the people around him, who he calls “magicians”.
“I am forever grateful to the people that saved me that night and I am truly appreciative that I was able to meet with them all and thank them personally.”
“I know firsthand that the work CFA volunteers do has very real outcomes for Mornington Peninsula families.
“I’d encourage anyone who wants to make a contribution to their community or is inspired by the work these firefighters do, to consider volunteering with their local CFA brigade.”