THEY spend their days saving our lives, but on one fateful night in 2003, three Queensland heroes lost their lives.
15 years on, their memories still remain and family, friends and colleagues will today pause to remember the bravery of Paramedic Craig Liddington, pilot Andrew Carpenter and crewman Stewart Eva.
The trio (pictured below), all aged 31 at the time, died when the CQ Rescue’s Bell helicopter plunged into the sea off Mackay, after running into some unexpected bad weather.
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They were responding to a call out on Hamilton Island, to retrieve people who were involved in a crash. When they didn’t make it, the alert was raised.
A mammoth search effort eventually found the crash site and recovered two bodies, but one was never found.
Current Mackay Operation Manager Tracey Eastwick remembers the moment she was informed by a co-worker that the men had died.
“There was a sense of disbelief,” Ms Eastwick says.
“We as paramedics respond to significant incidents every day and get exposed to family tragedy. But this was different, it was one of our own.
“It took some time for it to sink in.”
Ms Eastwick will be among those gathering at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mackay at 11am to pay her respects.
“Paramedic Craig Livington’s family is attending (with) his parents travelling up from Adelaide.
“It’s a lovely opportunity to catch up with them and share collective memories of Craig.
“I think that’s important and reassuring for the family to know that their loved ones aren’t missed and are remembered.”
The accident changed the way helicopter operations are conducted throughout Queensland.
At the time of the crash, single engine helicopters with visual flight rules were used.
They have now been replaced with twin engine helicopters with all the most modern navigation aids in the hope of preventing a similar tragedy.