Aerial photo of the Wheel of Fire Cascades at Finch Hatton Gorge.
Aerial photo of the Wheel of Fire Cascades at Finch Hatton Gorge. Contributed

Teen fell 4m down cliff at Wheel of Fire: "very dangerous"

UPDATE: THE teenager who fell about 4m down a cliff face at the Wheel of Fire Cascades at Finch Hatton Gorge is lucky to be alive, says a Mackay rescuer.

Mackay Fire Station Officer Neil Mellifont has warned others against climbing or other reckless activity in the gorge, after at least five deaths and countless injuries over the past three decades.

It's thought the 19-year-old male teen was swimming in one of the top water pools at the gorge, known as the Wheel of Fire Cascades, about 4.30pm on Saturday when he fell, making contact with a rock face, bouncing and sliding downward until he landed on a ledge.

Mackay Fire Station firefighters dashed to the aid of a teenager who'd fallen metres down a cliff face at Finch Hatton Gorge on Saturday. Pictured is (back) Anthony Eagleton, Macka Rowe, station officer Neil Mellifont, station officer Tony Schofield and (front) Teun Van Moolenbroek, Luke Hamdorf and Kiel Saron.
Mackay Fire Station firefighters dashed to the aid of a teenager who'd fallen metres down a cliff face at Finch Hatton Gorge on Saturday. Pictured is (back) Anthony Eagleton, Macka Rowe, station officer Neil Mellifont, station officer Tony Schofield and (front) Teun Van Moolenbroek, Luke Hamdorf and Kiel Saron. Luke Mortimer

He was left with a suspected broken leg, an injured back and injured ribs.

"He was out there with friends, about six of them. When we arrived the ambulance was on scene but hadn't made contact with the young gentleman," Mr Mellifont said.

"It was a matter of how we were going to get him from the other side of the gorge. With all the water we had over the past few weeks and yesterday (Saturday), there was a lot of water in the gorge, it was flowing quite strong."

Mr Mellifont said it was a long, strenuous job for rescuers, including Queensland Fire and Emergency's Swiftwater Rescue Team, the State Emergency Service, RACQ CQ Rescue, Queensland Ambulance Service and Queensland Police Service.

"The original call was for a vertical rescue with our ropes. But when we got on scene we could see we needed Swiftwater Rescue to get him across the water, get him down the embankment and walk him out," he said.

"From the time we left here until we got back was about six hours. Probably took us three or four hours to get him out. It was a long walk, that's for sure.

"We carried all our gear in and made an assessment how we'd get him out. Then SES turned up and we were able to use their manpower to carry him out while we got our equipment out.

The RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter waits at Finch Hatton Showgrounds after winching crew members to assist the injured 19-year-old who fell down a cliff face at Finch Hatton Gorge.
The RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter waits at Finch Hatton Showgrounds after winching crew members to assist the injured 19-year-old who fell down a cliff face at Finch Hatton Gorge. RACQ CQ Rescue

"He had busted ribs, a sore back and neck and a possible broken leg. He was in quite a bit of pain and he was quite cold laying on the rocks in the drizzly rain and the water running down the waterfall. There was a lot coming down.

"On previous experience, he was lucky he didn't fall all the way down the rocks and hit his head."

Mr Mellifont said the teenager's fall should act as a warning to others thinking about scaling rocks around Finch Hatton Gorge.

"It's a popular swimming spot but people have to remember you can't go climbing the Wheel of Fire. There's plenty of signs warning people not to do it. You can slide down it quite easily - we've been up there a few times for jobs to get people out, and when people have died up there," he said.

"It's a great spot, but don't climb around there, it's very dangerous."

 

The Wheel of Fire Cascades at Finch Hatton Gorge.
The Wheel of Fire Cascades at Finch Hatton Gorge. Contributed

An RACQ CQ Rescue spokeswoman said the service's helicopter was tasked about 6pm on Saturday night to help the teenager, who was about 60 kilometres west of Mackay.

"While preparing for a patient transfer from Proserpine around 6pm last night (Saturday), the Mackay-based RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter was re-tasked to assist," she said.

"On arrival at Finch Hatton Gorge, the Rescue Crew Officer and Flight Paramedic on board the RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter were winched down to assist QAS officers who had traveled by road and were already on scene, while the RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter flew to nearby Finch Hatton Showgrounds for further instructions."

RACQ CQ Rescue crewman David Williams said it was tricky freeing the teen from the ledge at the gorge.

"The Flight Paramedic administered pain relief to the injured teen but due to an element of risk in winching the patient at night and from thick rainforest, it was decided a safer option was to walk the man out on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance," he explained.

"Around 40 emergency services personnel including QAS, SES, QFS and RACQ CQ Rescue helped to carry the 19 year old on a stretcher to the ambulance vehicle for his transfer to Mackay Base Hospital.

"The trek from the scene of the accident along walking paths and across a river to the waiting ambulance took around 45 minutes."

The 19-year-old teenager was in a stable condition at Mackay Base Hospital on Saturday morning.

The RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter waits at Finch Hatton Showgrounds after winching crew members to assist the injured 19-year-old who fell down a cliff face at Finch Hatton Gorge.
The RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter waits at Finch Hatton Showgrounds after winching crew members to assist the injured 19-year-old who fell down a cliff face at Finch Hatton Gorge. RACQ CQ Rescue

*Correction: The teen fell 4m, not 40m as originally reported.

INITIAL: A TEENAGER has fallen at least four metres and likely broken his leg while scaling a cliff at Finch Hatton Gorge, says Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES).

Emergency services found out about the fall at the Wheel of Fire Cascades about 4.30pm on Saturday, a QFES spokesman said.

It's thought the male teen made contact with a rockface as he fell, bouncing and sliding downward until he landed.

On arrival, rescuers found the 19-year-old stuck on a ledge with a suspected broken leg, injured ribs and an injured back.

QFES' Swiftwater Rescue swung into action and the team eventually took him to safety hours later.

State Emergency Service (SES), Queensland Police Service and Queensland Ambulance Service also attended.

The man was taken to Mackay Base Hospital.

The hospital has been contacted for more information



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