Paramedic Dearne Linda Fulcher spent 25 years coping with the stress of a life and death workplace, until her own life came to an end last Thursday when the car she was in was hit by a tree in a freak accident.
It's believed the Katoomba woman died instantly.
A "shining light" in the paramedic world, the single mother of four, Ms Fulcher, 50, was returning home about 7pm with her son Dylan from dropping off his daughter - Dearne's first grandchild - in North Katoomba.
Police said a 30 metre Eucaplytus tree fell on Dylan's Volvo in strong westerly winds in Victoria Street, crashing into the car's windscreen.
Dearne was in the front passenger seat and took most of the brunt of the tree trunk. Dylan, 20, the driver, was trapped and seriously injured. He was freed by rescuers and flown to Westmead Hospital where he was placed in an induced coma for bleeding on the brain.
The Gazette understands a paramedic colleague on the scene suspected the victim might have been Dearne and started the process of confirming Dearne's identify by ringing her number in his phone. Her mobile in the car started ringing. Soon after other paramedics, police officers and fire brigade officers made the connection - one of their own was dead.
Detective Acting Crime Manager Brendan Bayliss said emergency service workers had been rocked by the incident.
"Whenever an emergency service worker is seriously or fatally injured, it impacts especially hard upon those that attend the scene or know the individual involved," he said.
Close friend of the family, Chloe Richards, has set up a GoFundMe page "to help Dearne's four children in the coming months try to get back on their feet, the best they can after this devastating incident".
Her parents Peter and Jackie Richards worked alongside Dearne as paramedics for 18 years. Mr Richards said Dearne's children had had a challenging childhood and "Dearne was very resilient and devoted to them".
"Dearne spent 20 plus years giving to her community and this is a way the community can give back to her and her beautiful children," Ms Richards said.
In two days more than $17,500 has been donated by more than 275 people.
On Monday Dylan's vital signs were positive and he left the intensive car unit.
He has a fractured cheekbone and hurts all over, and has to come to terms with the "psychological" effects of losing his mother in traumatic circumstances, Mr Richards said.
Officers from Blue Mountains Police Area Command have commenced inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident and Inspector Bayliss said a brief is being prepared for the Coroner.
A statement issued by the NSW Ambulance expressed "deepest sympathy to the Fulcher family".
"Dearne was a senior paramedic and clinician for more than 25 years, and was a shining light in her community and her profession," the statement said.
Ms Fulcher started with NSW Ambulance in 1994, and worked her way up to the role of intensive care paramedic operating out of Penrith super station.
"Always an extraordinary paramedic, Dearne displayed an enormous passion for delivering first-rate care to every single patient she encountered. Her strength of character was unrivalled.
In 2002, Dearne was awarded a Bronze Bravery Medal for her actions in treating patients following a devastating series of fires at Medlow Bath."
The ambulance service said they and the "community of Katoomba, are forever indebted to Dearne's service".
NSW State Emergency Service Blue Mountains unit commander, John Hughes, said winds had peaked at about 95 km/ph that evening and they had received about 70 calls for help in a 36-hour period. Most calls related to trees down or threatening, he said.
Dearne was a third dan black belt in two martial arts disciplines, an ultramarathon runner, cage fighter and first in her biomedical degree.
She is survived by her four children, Maddie, 21, Dylan, 20, Tristan, 17 and Ella, 15.
"Everything she touched she excelled at," Mr Richards said. "Her greatest goal in life though was her children and to give them some stability ... she got them to within a hand's reach of that."
To help the family go to https://www.gofundme.com/Fundraiser-for-Dearnes-Family