THE heroic paramedics who bravely rushed in to help Ravenshoe victims in last year’s horror explosion have been honoured for their life-saving efforts.
Health Minister Cameron Dick yesterday flew to Ravenshoe to award 19 emergency personnel with the Meritorious Service Award, saying their selfless actions had “saved lives that day”.
An out-of-control 4WD smashed into the Serves You Right Cafe on June 9, 2015, igniting two gas cylinders and setting off an explosion that killed cafe manager Nicole Nyholt, 37, and Silver Valley grandmother Margaret Clarke, 82.
It was the state’s largest mass burns tragedy, and left 21 other people severely burnt.
First responder Darrell Thompson said the scale of the explosion quickly became apparent when burns victims began to emerge.
“It was a long day and started off as a could-be-anything kind of day and turned into an absolutely frantic hard-to-remember-the-details kind of day,” he said.
“I could see all the smoke and was directed to one patient and thought … it was a fairly small-sized explosion with only one casualty. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and they all just started coming out of the woodwork as everyone scattered to get away from the blast.”
He said the community had bonded over the tragedy.
Paramedic Jennifer Miran travelled from Cairns with an emergency triage unit and arrived an hour after the explosion. She said there were dozens of burns victims requiring treatment. “Once we got on scene, we saw myriad people scattered and coming up saying ‘I’ve been burnt and haven’t been assessed yet’,” she said.
“A lot of people were injured and could see the severity of the situation and didn’t want to ask for help because they were concerned about taking care away from others.”
Ms Miran said she was grateful for the recognition, but the day was a “sombre experience”.
“Just being able to look across the street and see where the cafe was and recalling what it was like that day is surreal,” she said. “You still have those images – even though the building is gone – etched in your mind.”
Field Officer Mellissa Keune said the tragedy had brought the town closer.
“It’s very humbling knowing what we all went through and all the bystanders who assisted on the day and have gone without any recognition,” she said.
QAS staff who worked in the Operations Centre and Local Ambulance Co-ordination Centre were also awarded certificates of Commendation.