Woodford’s Murray Traynor can remember the monster-sized waves and battering winds that struck 50km off Merimbula’s shores during the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race like it was yesterday.
The experienced Springwood and Penrith-based Ambulance Service of NSW paramedic was winched from a CareFlight helicopter down to the treacherous waters multiple times and successfully rescued the seven surviving crew members of a badly damaged 12-metre yacht.
Sadly, two sailors died before help could arrive.
“The conditions were atrocious and I remember the waves were so big that to see the horizon I had to look up at an angle of about 45 degrees,” he said last week.
“But you train for all these different types of things and the team that are in the aircraft, well, you can trust them with your life.”
That job, done in the worst possible conditions, saw Mr Traynor receive a Bravery Medal the following year and his crew a group citation for bravery.
Mr Traynor’s 27-year-career was recognised with an Ambulance Service Medal in Sunday’s Australia Day honours, especially for contribution to enhancing clinical standards in the service.
“It’s quite an honour and I’m a bit humbled,” Mr Traynor told the Gazette.
“I’m just like any other ambo that puts in the hard work.”
Mr Traynor said he always knew he wanted to become a paramedic.
“I’m a second generation ambulance officer — my father was an ambo for about 24 years,” he said.
“Every day is different and you don’t know what you’ll be doing next.
“I like the compassionate side to the job, but I also like the teamwork. You need a very good team around you in my line of work and I’ve always had one.
“Especially here in the Blue Mountains, where hospitals are some distance from each other and ambulance officers often have a patient [in their care] for longer.”
Other events that stand out in Mr Traynor’s career include working at the Thredbo landslide, Samoan tsunami, Queensland floods, Victorian bushfires and the Christchurch earthquake.
“I was at the Pyne Gould building in Christchurch after it just pancaked.
“We had to crawl through the rubble and our team got a live person out of there.
“It was dangerous but it was a calculated risk.
“At one point I was climbing a ladder when another aftershock was happening — that was quite a challenge.”
Mr Traynor said he also enjoys working as part of a SCAT (Special Casualty Access Team) team.
“SCAT paramedics can be taken nearly anywhere and are often required in the Blue Mountains region — only last month I assisted in an overnight rescue at Claustral Canyon.
“So I’m still very involved with rescues in the bush, but it does get harder the older you get!”