A MOUNTAIN bike rider with suspected spinal injuries was forced to wait more than two hours to be rescued after he careered over his handlebars in thick pine forest near Armidale.
The man, in his late 30s, was on a social ride with a dozen mates on Sunday afternoon when he missed his landing slightly and wound up on the forest floor.
David Harris, a rider in the pack, was immediately concerned.
“When we came across him he was in quite a bit of pain and worried about his back,” Mr Harris said. “We called 000 but didn’t want to move him because we were nervous.”
Ambulance officers despatched to the crash site tried in vain to reach the injured man but boggy conditions – the result of recent grading and rain – halted their advance.
With nowhere for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to land close by and knowing the Tamworth base had been ordered to cease winching operations, ambulance officers were forced to make the round trip to Guyra, 38km away, to collect a four-wheel-drive ambulance capable of reaching the patient.
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In the meantime the man lay on wet ground, immobile, waiting for help to arrive.
Mr Harris said ambulance officers were “exceptionally helpful and professional,” but pointed out the quickest, easiest and safest way to extradite his friend was by winch.
Instead, he had to “bounce around in the back of a Landrover,” Mr Harris said.
The man suffered several broken ribs close to his spine and was later discharged from hospital.
Deputy mayor Russell Webb said the incident unequivocally highlighted the need for the state government to reverse its decision.
“I believe that we can now clearly say to the decision makers, this is the perfect reason why the winching capabilities should be reinstated immediately. And there should be no obstacles put in the way of the reinstatement,” he said.
“If further assessment needs to be done for the long-term use of the winch, the let’s do it while the winch’s availability remains in place as it has done, incident free out of the Tamworth base, since 2000.
“We don’t want someone to pay the ultimate price for this decision.”
The state government ordered the Tamworth base to cease winching operations late last month citing safety concerns.