Port Stephens SES members assist in Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak rescue

Port Stephens SES Member ‘Bluey’ the day after he carried AJ back to safety.

 

PORT Stephens SES volunteers are always ready to put their hands up to help not only the local community but the wider community whenever there is need.

Last week saw the team join some 400 other emergency service workers and volunteers in a desperate four day search for a toddler lost in rugged terrain.

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Three year old Anthony ‘AJ’ Elfalak had simply gone missing from the family home.

There were grave fears for the toddler.

The dam was emptied.

Thoughts turned to William Tyrell who went missing in 2014 – who has still not been found.

Throughout the tough search members of Port Stephen SES Charlie 9 team were led by Greg ‘Bluey’ Chalmers.

Bluey told News Of The Area, “On the Saturday night I was with a young group of SES volunteers guiding them through the search and process.

“It was wet, we were in the middle of nowhere and I said ‘let’s have a break have some water’.

“We turned off the lights, it was so quiet and I said to the team, ‘Can you imagine what AJ is thinking at the moment?’

“Then we simply turned the lights back on and got moving again.”

Throughout the search the team held on to the thought that they were involved in a search and rescue not a search and recovery operation.

It was early in the morning when Bluey was calling in a GPS mark for a wombat hole that he had been checking – there was a tiny footprint in the hole and there weren’t any droppings around the entrance.

It was almost at the same time that a Police helicopter called in that they had the boy in sight.

Bluey and his team were the first to reach the non-verbal toddler, they were literally just a few metres from the child.

“I touched him on the shoulder and he turned around and looked me in the eyes.

“AJ’s reaction to seeing the team was as though he was saying ‘you’ve taken your time mate’.

“We checked him over for life threatening injuries and I put him on my knee and gave him some water.

“AJ was too weak to hold the water bottle.”

Bluey called in that he had AJ and that he was fine.

Then he said to AJ, “Come on mate we will go to find mum.”

While Bluey cradled the toddler to his chest he reached out and touched the SES badges.

Bluey carried the exhausted child back to the base camp and his mother – AJ clutching his shirt all the way.

“It was a fantastic outcome.”

Bluey is proud of his team and his 10 years of service in the SES.

“The SES is not for guys looking for glory, fame and fortune, the SES is for giving back to the community.”

They are there after storms helping people when all their belongings are destroyed.

“The greatest thing you can do is to help to protect them and help them any way you can…”

The SES is made up of a diverse set of individuals with a vast range of skills from paramedics and professors to retired engineers and tradies.

“We all have skills that can be passed on to the young people – the SES training is amazing yet out of ten that apply to join we end up retaining one.

“However the skills, training, knowledge and procedures from the training allow us to walk alongside each other in difficult conditions knowing each one of us has the qualifications to be there and can be depended upon.”

Bluey said that putting the call out to let the world know that they had AJ and that AJ was alright was the best moment in his life.

Yet Bluey knows that without boots on the ground it would not have been possible.

Bluey believes if he can make a difference to one life through his service with the SES it will be worth it.

This week Bluey and Charlie 9 made a very big difference.

 

By Marian SAMPSON

 

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