Lifetime of rescues serve as point of reference for generations to come

ARARAT - Newspaper clippings and pictures that detail more than 40 years of rescues have been handed over to Ararat's Langi Morgala Museum.

The Ararat Rescue Squad's initiator Brian Rickard made the handover that was attended by a group of avid historians recently.

Mr Rickard compiled the collection with many rescues he was either involved in or a witness too.

He established the Ararat Rescue Squad in the late 60s after concluding that agencies including the Ararat Urban Fire Brigade were either ill equipped for or lacked training to deal with rescues effectively.

In its initial days the squad, with equipment stored at Mr Rickard's home, responded to emergencies with two private station wagons.

In June 1967 the squad was called on to carry out its first rescue with Mr Rickard descending into a 30 feet deep mine shaft to rescue a local farmer who had fallen into the shaft some 12 hours earlier.

In October 1967 the unit was called on to retrieve four bodies from a crushed vehicle following a car and train collision on the Hamilton rail crossing east of Ararat.

At this time Ararat Rescue Squad was believed to be the first in country Victoria involved in road accident rescue.

"The police and TAC get a lot of credit for saving peoples' lives but it is the SES and its volunteers who have also played a big part as the ones who provide safe access for paramedics and working to ensure the patient received treatment within that golden hour," he said.

"The golden hour was something that was vital in our time because we didn't have the sophisticated equipment they do now."

Mr Rickard went on to specialise in the area when he joined the VICSES as a regional officer.

In May 1969 the squad was called to assist at a mineshaft at Mafeking where two men were believed to be trapped.

Mr Rickard descended into the 80 feet deep mine shaft to rescue the two men but discovered both had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Their bodies were retrieved from 12 foot of water at the bottom of the shaft.

Mr Rickard was highly regarded by the Deputy District Coroner who recommended him for a Royal Humane Society of Australia award. He received a commendation for the part he played in the operation.

"I said to them look I don't want a recommendation what I want is a truck to cart all the equipment in," he said.

Mr Rickard said with the Occupational Health and Safety requirements that now apply if an incident like that were to occur today retrieving the bodies wouldn't be allowed.

In September 1970 the city and shire councils agreed to investigate the purchase of a second hand truck to the value of $1,000. In November of that same year the councils jointly provided the squad with an ex shire tiptruck.

Over the years the squad was involved in a number of road accident rescues, searches, fire support, floods, windstorms, mine rescues and community support activities.

Mr Rickard is adamant the unit would not have achieved the success that it has without the support of the Ararat and district community through its appeals for equipment, fitting out of the original truck, the jaws appeal, the replacement truck and the provision of a new and more functional headquarters.

He is also convinced that without the support, dedication and enthusiasm of the original members who made up the rescue, diving and communications sections the unit would not be where it is today.

After around a decade with the squad Mr Rickard applied for the newly created position of regional officer, VICSES to be based at Ballarat in 1976.

He became the longest serving regional officer/director/manager in the service, retiring in February 2003 after serving on the staff for 27 years.

Mr Rickard has been awarded the National Medal with three bars (45 years), the State Emergency Service Medal (40 years), the Public Service Medal in the 1993 Australia Day Honours and is a member of the Australian Institute of Emergency Services.

Langi Morgala president Trevor Gallahar said the collection of material will maintain the squad's prosperity and serve as a point of reference for younger generations.

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