Originally based at Kurrawa, the helicopter rescue service began in December 1976 and patrolled Gold Coast beaches from October to April each year. In those early years a Bell 206B Jet Ranger helicopter was used, and four rescues were carried out during 37 missions flown in that first season.
Today it is one of the oldest community-based helicopter rescue services in the world. It remains a free community service with the sole mission to prevent incidents and to save lives, both on and off the beach.
Saving lives on and off Queensland beaches, we are the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service.
The service patrols the South East Quensland coast and carries out beach surveillance, shark warnings, preventative actions, missing person searches and rescues.
We are also involved in emergency response, working in conjunction with organisations including the Queensland Police Service, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, and Queensland Fire & Emergency Services.
As with each of the 13 Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter bases across Australia, the Queensland services out of the Caloundra and Carrara bases are a free community service; no one has ever been charged to be rescued.
Community demonstrations, in which volunteers donate their time, assist to fundraise for rescue equipment for both Queensland operations.
In addition to regular beach patrols the service undertakes aerial surveillance, emergency response, and search and rescue operations. Away from the surf, the crew also works closely with key emergency agencies such as the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) and is part of State and local disaster management groups.
In 2011 the helicopter service was heavily involved with emergency search and rescue operations during South East Queensland's devastating floods. At the height of the disaster, the crew was dispatched to assist with emergency callouts in the Toowoomba and Esk region. Despite battling torrential rain and low visibility, the helicopter crew directly saved the lives of seven people through winch rescues and assisted numerous others.