Lithgow Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) captain Ian Bennett has been a part of the VRA for over 38 years. His son and deputy captain Paul has been part of the crew for just over 15 years. Combined they have seen everything from fingers stuck in plug holes, boats flipped on top of cars and fatalities.
The Lithgow VRA conducts general land rescues for the district including car accidents, bush searches, animal rescues, industrial and domestic incidents.
"It is rare that we attend an incident every day, but we normally attend between 95 and 100 call outs per year," Ian said.
"Out of the 43 squads in NSW we are one of the busiest."
The VRA, which is classed as an emergency service, works closely with the Lithgow, Bathurst and Katoomba police rescue and ambulance services.
"We don't have a roster but we are always on call and whoever is available at the time will take the call," he said.
"Anything you are stuck in, we come to."
The job was sometimes a thankless one. Ian said on the job he has been punched, spat at, abused and laughed at by members the public.
"You just have to shrug it off, we have a great support network, it's one big family so if someone is in trouble you can make one phone call and they will be there," he said.
One tough situation that the father son duo were involved in was rendering first aid to a motorbike rider who had collided head on with their own four wheel drive.
"The man died on us three times but we brought him back each time... it was absolutely horrible," Ian said.
"The [best] part is that he is actually alive, walking around."
Ian said no one wanted to see what they had to in carrying out their work.
"I can remember all the accidents I have seen and been to, but you learn to block it out," he said.
"Sometimes it's hard, the nightmares about the first fatality was horrible, and I can see it as though it happened yesterday."
Ian said what he has learned to do and what he has taught Paul and the others, is to focus on the rescue.
Paul Bennett said he was thrown in the deep end when he first joined the VRA.
"My first seven jobs were all fatal accidents, so that was extremely hard," he said.
The VRA currently has 12 members, and are looking to recruit some more.
"It only takes two members to do the rescue but we like to roll with six so that some can get all the gear and the others can focus on the rescue," Ian said.
"To join you don't need any special training, just a willingness to learn and be part of a team, we provide national accredited training."
Ian said he enjoyed helping people in need.
"I do it not because I have to, but because I want to, we want to go out and if we don't want to we say no but we haven't said that in 38 years," he said.
Paul said he joined because he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.
"My mother is the secretary, my wife the treasurer and my sister comes and does it too," he said.
The duo has missed many Christmas and Easter lunches, as well as birthdays due to being called out to accidents.
"If you have a sense of adventure then come on board, we take anybody and everybody, we don't discriminate," Ian said.
"As long as you are healthy you can come along and be part of a fantastic crew."
"We just have to thank the Rapid Relief Team from [the Brethren Christian Church], because it could be 1am and they will come out to a rescue to feed us or give us hot drinks," Ian said.
"They are one of our biggest supporters, they have helped us get lights on our car roofs working, sirens, lights, anything and they will get it done no questions asked."
Ian said the skills you gained through the VRA you would take with you for the rest of your life.
"We do special training, and sometimes we have people who have specialities come visit us for training," he said.
The group meets every Tuesday night from 7.30pm to 9.30pm, at 148 Mort Street.
You can visit or give Ian a call on 0428 317 872 or email at email@example.com.
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