VRA provides tough but rewarding times

NO WORDS can describe the emotional roller-coaster one Dubbo man experienced as a young boy took his last breath in his arms.

The little boy was not lying terminally ill in a hospital bed but was killed in a car accident days before Easter.

It was almost 30 years ago when this dreadful tragedy happened and it has never left the mind of NSW Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) commissioner Mark Gibson.

"It was Good Friday and we were called to a motor vehicle accident past the Dubbo tip on the Narromine Road between two cars," he said.

"We were first on the scene and it was like a bomb had gone off - glass, metal and plastic shattered everywhere."

Two cars hit head-on and the force of the collision pushed the engine back to the firewall.

In one car was a family from Sydney with the collision claiming the lives of the entire family.

There were two young children about six years old trapped in the back of the car.

As Mr Gibson looked at the disaster unfolding before his eyes he found the two children breathing and raced to save them from the wreck.

The little girl died in the car and after he struggled to free the boy he carried him in his arms but it was too late.

"I immediately thought how can I revive him as quickly as possible," he said.

Mr Gibson tried CPR but to no avail.

"I knew he was dead but I still tried my best hoping he would return to life," he said.

"I was gut-wrenched and angry at a life which was innocently taken away."

As a newly married man with children the same age his mind raced to their safety and he wanted to get home quickly.

Tears flowed uncontrollably down his face as he made his way home and he ran to his children's bedroom and hugged them tightly.

"The feelings are the same as if someone rang you and told you your father or mother suddenly died," he said.

"It was extremely emotional having this tender, growing boy in my hands breathing his last breath. You feel like you haven't done your job properly."

Mr Gibson said a debrief session after the tragedy was important in helping to deal with the trauma.

There was a great bond of trust between the Dubbo VRA team to open up and express the raw emotions and receive support from one another.

No volunteer could afford to hide their emotions after a major event, he said.

Mr Gibson still has vivid memories of the accident despite the passing of time.

"That picture of that young boy breathing his last is always on my mind," he said, visibly shaken.

"Every time I see an accident or hear about a young boy killed in an accident I remember him."

However in his 41 years service in the VRA there were many rewarding and funny incidents.

Mr Gibson laughed when he recalled a time when the Dubbo team was called to save a cat from a chimney twice in the same day.

"The cat must've thought it was Santa Claus or something," he said.

Once he was called to a property at 5pm when a nine-year-old boy went missing on his bike at midday on Mendooran Road.

The sun was going down which made the search effort challenging and the boy was found at 7pm as "fit as a fiddle and happy as Larry".

"There's no better joy than finding the boy and giving him back to his parents," he said.

"The feeling is overwhelming, called to an extremely tough situation and you finish with a good result."

Whenever the Dubbo VRA was called to help you never knew what to expect or what could happen.

"As soon as the pager goes off, your heart starts pumping and it doesn't change over the years," he said.

One of the challenges he faced was controlling the adrenaline rush without letting it and the emotions take over.

The aim was to save someone from an accident so there was no loss to the family even if they were injured.

For his hard work and dedication to helping the community he was recently voted the commissioner of NSW VRA.

This responsibility meant overlooking 58 VRA squads and liaising with government departments and sponsors.

His move from operations to administrative means meeting after meeting and he said he missed the hands-on-part of the job.

The funding of the VRA was a big challenge and he called for more sponsors to help this vital service to continue and thrive.

Mr Gibson was recently awarded the Emergency Service Medal, the top gong, for excelling in his service with the VRA.

He was humbled about the medal and said his whole life focused on helping and rescuing others.

"The best part is you volunteer for love and you earn the respect of the community," he said.

The secret to his longevity in the VRA, where he started as a 17-year-old, was talking to family and friends about the situations he attended.

"It's a relief because I don't have to carry it on my shoulders," he said.

The Daily Liberal asked whether there was a time he had thought about quitting or moving to another volunteer organisation.

"When you're there helping people in time of danger and need, how can you get bored?" he said.

"What keeps you going is the feeling of success and knowing you've helped someone."

The newly appointed commissioner encouraged Dubbo residents to join the VRA and to lend a helping hand. "It is a rewarding experience," he said.

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