When a call comes in
What happens when the RAC Rescue team hears the phone ring?
By: Jane Hammond
For 10 hours Graeme Fry lay pinned under a 400kg quad bike as he drifted in and out of consciousness in an isolated paddock in WA’s South West.
The massive weight on his legs was slowly killing him.
In excruciating pain Fry could do nothing but wait for help – by the time it came, he was close to death.
Fry, a weed-spraying contractor, was working alone on a property at Donnybrook on the morning of 15 April 2013. He had taken his quad bike and a tank of chemical spray up a steep hill.
But, when he turned the vehicle around, it flipped over, landing on top of him.
“I don’t know what happened next but when I came to I was lying on my back with the full weight of the quad bike upturned across my legs."
“I couldn’t push the bike off but I managed to reach up and turn the key to off. I then drained the chemical tank on the back to try to lighten the load.”
The 59-year-old father of three was no stranger to close calls having survived cancer decades earlier and a near-fatal car crash when he was still an infant. But lying in that paddock, he feared his run of lucky escapes might be over.
“The pain was horrendous. I knew no one would notice I was missing until it got dark so I knew I was in for a long wait,” Fry says.
During the ordeal Fry's mobile phone had been thrown from his pocket and lay hidden and out of reach several metres behind him.
The roll-over happened at about 9.30am and it was not until 6pm that he heard his phone ring. It was a relief to hear the mobile ring out six times until it finally went dead.
He knew it had to be his wife and she would raise the alarm. Fortunately, on the day of the incident he had told his wife where he would be working. It was a chance remark that probably helped save his life.
Within an hour a search team had been assembled and in dying light Fry could hear the rescue team around him. With the last of his strength he lifted himself up to reach the bike’s keys and flashed his lights on and off. Within minutes, help had arrived.
The first rescuers on the scene lifted the heavy bike off his crushed limbs but the action sent Fry into severe shock and he was then in need of urgent medical attention.
An RAC Rescue helicopter was on its way but the terrain was difficult and a ground fog would make finding a safe place to land even more complex. The rescue team placed their vehicles in a large circle and turned their headlights on to create an illuminated helipad for the aircraft.
But the fog made the ground impossible to see and it took three attempts before the helicopter could finally land and the Critical Care Paramedic could reach Fry.
The quad bike’s weight had crushed Fry’s left leg and his internal organs were starting to shut down. With just minutes to spare he was on his way to Royal Perth Hospital and life-saving surgery.
He spent 10 weeks in intensive care and his family were told three times to say their goodbyes as he was so close to death.
With organ failure, a smashed leg, failing intestines and repeated infections Fry had an immense battle ahead.
The road to a full recovery was long and tough but having worked hard to overcome his injuries, he now works as a forklift driver. Fry says he owes his life to RAC Rescue and the work of its crew.
“The prompt evacuation from accident site to hospital probably gave me the extra hour that saved my life,” he says.
Funded by the State Government, the RAC Rescue helicopters are managed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) and sponsored by RAC.
Your RAC membership helps us sponsor the RAC Rescue helicopters, which fly life-saving missions every hour of every day.
As a membership organisation we don’t have shareholders, which means we can reinvest our profits for the better of our members and the WA community.