IT was April, 2006. A rock fall at the Beaconsfield Gold Mine had trapped two men underground. One man, Larry Knight, died.
When Karen Pendrey was sent underground to chat with miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell, the first thing she did was try to find some common ground.
‘‘Hi, I’m Karen, I’m Ella’s sister. Have you hurt yourself?’’ Mrs Pendrey said to them.
Jude Barnes, Nicholas Chapman, Matthew Eastham, Gregory Edsall, Paul Featherstone, Ian Hart, Peter James, Graeme Jones and Richard Morris were part of the team working to provide support for the psychological wellbeing, health and safety of Mr Webb and Mr Russell.
The group worked with professionals including psychologists and dieticians to ensure they were best communicating with the pair.
They stayed underground while the blaster worked away at freeing the men and each paramedic worked 16-hour shifts with just 24 hours off to recuperate.
In that week the miners were stuck underground, they had built up a rapport. Everyone received a nickname, the paramedics sent down their ID cards and Mr Russell and Mr Webb would check the roster to see who would be on the other end of the phone next.
Mr James, who assisted following the Port Arthur massacre and earthquakes in Christchurch, said it was unlike any other situation he had been in.
Mrs Pendrey agreed with her workmates: it was another shift at work, albeit an extraordinary one.
Mr James and Mr Chapman agreed the people blasting rock were the real heroes of the situation.
All paramedics remembered Mr Webb and Mr Russell emerging from the mine on May 9.
‘‘Everyone had some sort of relationship with the guys,’’ Ambulance Tasmania regional manager Matthew Eastham said.
‘‘There was a fair bit of emotion when they finally came to the surface.’’
Mr Eastham spoke for everyone when he said it was a privilege and an honour to be nationally recognised.
‘‘The award is really recognition for all the paramedics who worked during the emergency,’’ he said.
‘‘When the call came in that some miners were trapped we took it on as a team like we are trained to do.’’
‘‘The circumstances were unique, and we had to think through the problems, but everyone was committed and knew what to do.
‘‘I’m glad that we were able to help in our way, although as paramedics we always remember the miner who didn’t make it out, and what his family and loved ones went through.’’