The Cave Rescue Squad is a group of volunteers used to assist trapped and injured cavers. We were called up to the Workers Club the day after the earthquake to check for survivors.
It was a difficult search, dark and confusing. Inside the club was very surreal. All the normal markers “This is a floor so here is a door” were turned upside down. The sounds of the demolition next door made it impossible to listen for people so we had the noise stopped. Then you could hear the slab above our heads creaking as it tilted.
I was wading through piles of coins and I thought “What’s that bad smell?” I was in the toilets. We had been briefed by paramedics before we entered and faced a barrage of media when we reached the outside.
I retired as Cave Rescue Squad Captain at 40 after five years in the job. The next Captain faced the Thredbo landslide. During trauma, you look at what you can do operationally and put your emotions aside but they come back to haunt you later.
Twenty five years on, the Urban Search and Rescue Teams are now fully trained and undertake these kinds of searches which I think is great. I think our society is more fragile now than in 1989. We do the groceries everyday and a major disaster would throw us off kilter.
David Rothery, 38 year old NSW Cave Rescue Squad Captain