Riders hit the road to support rescue service

Motorists urged to be on lookout for bike riders when they hit the road to raise funds for rescue chopper

By Brad Gardner |January 15, 2010

A group of bike riders will hit the road in March on a 1700km journey to raise funds for the vital Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

Motorists are being urged to be on the lookout for the riders from March 6 to 26 as they journey from the Barossa Valley to Tamworth.

The charity bike ride will travel through three states to raise money for a visitor centre for the soon-to-be-built $2 million rescue base and to celebrate 10 years of the service saving lives in the New England region.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter spokesman Barry Walton says riders will be using the UHF to let motorists know where they are.

"We will be on the Newell Highway a couple of times until we get onto the back roads," Walton says.

Riders will also be collecting donations along the way and the community has been urged to support the riders.

Walton will join the riders who, along with the support crew, are all volunteers.

"This is a one-off ride never to happen again," he says.

The service requires about $3 million a year to run, while the helicopter’s running costs are $3,000 an hour.

"It does require a bit of juice to run it," Walton says.

Although 50 percent of funding needs are covered by a NSW Department of Health contract, the rescue service relies on $1.2 million in community donations each year to survive.

The helicopter covers a broad area, including north of Murrurundi to Glen Innes, west to Moree and Lightning Ridge and south to Dubbo.

Walton says the service is responsible for dropping paramedics off at accidents, delivering retrieval teams and taking the injured to hospital.

"We have attended on a few occasions some truck accidents," he says.

The helicopter began servicing The New England North West in August 2000.

Those wanting more information about the event or to donate funds can call 02 6766 6641 or click here.

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