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10 November, 2023

Reunion for truck crash survivor and rescue crew

Specialist road crash rescue operators from the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) Gilgandra Unit have reunited with a man they spent more than four hours cutting free from a truck wreckage.

By Lucie Peart

Locals reunited with a crash rescue survivor last week at the Gilgandra SES headquarters. Pictured are NSW SES member William Flood, NSW Ambulance paramedic Troy Jones, Jo and Chris Scullin, and Fire and Rescue NSW firefighters Jason Tate and Damian Jordan who attended the scene of the crash. Photos by Gilgandra SES.

In April 2021 NSW SES crews, along with NSW Ambulance, Police, Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service, were called to the Newell Highway at Bidden for a double truck crash. 

The driver of one of the trucks, Chris Scullin, was severely injured in the crash when his semi-trailer truck collided with a B-double, which had overturned across both lanes moments earlier. The cab of his heavy vehicle became wedged into the B-double and required a technical and slow extraction process, which lasted four-and-a-half hours. While NSW SES crews worked to separate the two large vehicles and free Mr Scullin, ambulance paramedics worked to stabilise him in the cab of the semi-trailer. 

Mr Scullin reunited with and thanked the emergency services in Gilgandra last Monday evening (October 30), and said they helped save his life. 

“They get out there and save the lives of complete strangers, and they don’t often know what happens to them in the end. I want to say ‘thank you very much for what they have done for me because I am still alive’,” Mr Scullin said.

“I was in a coma for nine days, but for more than a month I couldn’t communicate properly. I didn’t realise the full extent of the injury or accident, and there’s still about five hours of the day I have no recollection of. I’m hoping they can fill in those missing pieces and tell me more about the scene.” 

In the crash, Mr Scullin shattered the left side of his face, broke his nose and his right arm, and is left with a titanium eye socket. He also has a left frontal lobe brain injury and post-traumatic amnesia. 

Among the NSW SES road crash rescue operators to attend the scene on the day was Geoff Kiehne ASM, who said the rescue was one of the most complex he’s been a part of. 

“It was so complex because of the weights involved and how the two trucks were literally bound together. When you move something, it could impact the patient greatly, so it was very slow, and the manoeuvres were very slight and particular,” Mr Kiehne explained.

“This was all happening while paramedics were working on Mr Scullin – one up on the roof, and one in the cab watching to make sure there wasn’t anything moving onto him when we were moving the trucks.” Mr Kiehne, who is also a paramedic, was thrilled to be reunited with Mr Scullin, and see the recovery he’s made since the incident. 

“I’ve been a paramedic for 40-odd years, and this is the first time I have had someone come back to me after a long recovery period to say ‘thank you’. It’s pretty unusual,” he said. 

The reunion also came as Access Metal Recycling donated a new hydraulic ram worth $5000 to the NSW SES Gilgandra Unit which will enhance their road crash rescue toolkit. 

“This tool will be used in road crash scenes, like the one we helped rescue Chris Scullin from, to help free people from wreckages,” Mr Kiehne said.

A 50 tonne hydraulic ram, hand pump, hose and carry case was donated to the NSW SES Gilgrandra Unit by Access Metal Recycling. Pictured is NSW SES Gilgrandra rescue operator Geoff Kiehne, Gilgandra Shire Council mayor Doug Batten, Glenn Sheehan, Access Metal Recycling representatives and NSW SES western zone commander chief superintendent Brigid Rice. Photo By Gilgandra SES.

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