Rhett and his family own Lorella Springs, one of the most remote properties in Australia. The property is about 30 minutes flying time from Borroloola on the Gulf of Carpentaria.
One Friday, Rhett, together with his father and three sons, ventured to a distant part of the property to clear a new track. They used a tried and tested bush road clearing technique – a large grader tyre towed behind the 4WD.
The tyre caught on a tree and recoiled, catapulting through the back window. It smashed into Rhett’s head and the chain wrapped around his face. His eye sockets were shattered, his jawbone ripped off and his skull crushed.
Rhett lost a huge amount of blood in the first few seconds. His father desperately packed his head with as much tissue and toilet paper as he could find to stem the flow. The family then began the perilous journey back to the homestead, having contacted emergency services by satphone.
CareFlight, suspecting that the airstrip on the property may not be long enough to land an aeromedical plane, dispatched a helicopter as well as a plane from Darwin for the 1,500 km round trip.
The plane flew to Nathan River Station and was met by a park ranger. The ranger drove the doctor and nurse 90 km across flooded creeks to reach Rhett. The helicopter flew directly to Lorella Springs, arriving at night after refuelling at Katherine and Ngukurr.
Once the medical team had stabilised Rhett, they flew him by helicopter to Borroloola airport. There the plane was waiting to transfer him to Royal Darwin Hospital.
Rhett was in hospital for almost two weeks. His injuries were so severe that doctors could not find any intact bones in his face to which they could attach metal plates. He’s lost most of the vision in one eye and all muscle control on one side of his face.
However, Rhett considers himself the luckiest person in the world. He survived and, a year on, is making a good recovery.
The mission was a mammoth logistical feat involving two aircraft, several hundred phone calls and the efforts of many people including doctors, nurses, pilots, aircrewmen, logistics coordinators, family members, property staff and guests and the park ranger who drove the medical crew to the property.