When Ernest Hillard, 89, woke up under the wreck of his bulldozer, he thought he was dead.
"I kept coming to during the night. I'd look up and see the clouds coming past and I thought I was in heaven. I'd never thought I'd make it."
It took his two sons, police and neighbours 19 hours to find Mr Hillard on his 1,100 acre cattle farm at Wards River, near Dungog.
"I was clearing the side of the hill, the bulldozer jumped out of gear and run backwards and tipped over into some Lantana.
"The accident happened at lunchtime and eventually they found me at 7am. The helicopter came to pick me up and I was at John Hunter hospital for a month. They didn't expect me to live."
Roughly two decades since the incident, the Argenton resident met with 100 other former patients of the Wetspac Rescue Helicopter Service on Sunday to pass their thanks onto crew members. The charity holds the "Rescue Club" event annually at Belmont Airport.
Among the crowd was Mark Manile, 58, of Dora Creek, who credits his life to the service after slipping off a cliff in the Watagans.
"I fell 150 feet, about 50 metres, off Heaton's Lookout. I was holding onto grass but I must have blacked out and let go," Mr Manile said. "Abseilers rang them up saying they could see a body dangling in a tree. The helicopter went up there to do a body retrieval."
It took the crew about five hours to winch Mr Manile from a "tiny" ledge on the cliff to safety. Below there was a further drop of 25 metres.
"The pilot was using 100 per cent thrust just trying to keep hovered because of the downward draft from the cliff. They had to keep going and coming back for fuel.
"As the helicopter landed at the John Hunter, apparently my heart stopped. They went, 'You're not dying here you bastard.' And they fist pumped me."
Upon waking up from a two-week coma, Mr Manile realised that not only had the service saved his life but, due to the crew's careful handling, he had not developed paralysis from his injuries.
"I had a broken neck and back, 12 broken vertebrae, three smashed in my neck, and two broken legs.
"I was in the John Hunter for about six months but I walked out of there because of these guys," Mr Manile said.
"I just joined this group [the rescue club] to do something to help. Whatever, I will do it. They saved my life."