Aussie Salvage Squad to the rescue
THE skies were grey, flotsam and jetsam lined the shores, people were living out of cardboard boxes and the town had been out of power for days.
People's homes were destroyed, their hobbies and passions smashed to smithereens and their livelihoods were washing up against jetties and coasts all over the tropical north.
This was the state of the Whitsundays when Western Australian marine salvage and rescue company Geographe Marine Salvage and Rescue rolled into town after Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
Arriving at the perfect time, Luke Purdy set to work with his team Jayde Towers, Ellie Faranda and Dan Miliauskas salvaging some of the most difficult wrecks along the North Queensland coast.
Now the team is back with an exciting second season of the program Aussie Salvage Squad and Luke, Jayde, Ellie and Dan are ready to show Mackay and the Whitsundays what they can really do.
Now back at his home base of Busselton, Western Australia, Luke said he got involved in marine salvage in the Whitsundays, he said it was because of his prior experience in the industry.
"I have worked for two insurance companies for a long time, and when the disaster hit over there, there was so much damage and devastation that I think they didn't know how to deal with it, so they put a call out to some of their salvage operators interstate and asked if anybody would be interested in coming over to do this and I said yes," he said.
From there a range of circumstances led them to the doorstep of the Discovery team.
It was a big job. Luke and Jayde estimate they rescued more than 20 boats in their time in the Whitsundays, combined with the challenges of working with a full television production crew.
Some of the rescues were life-changing for their owners, and both Luke and Jayde spoke of a particularly memorable rescue with an owner called Bruce.
Bruce had suffered a heart attack before the cyclone and wasn't able to make it out of hospital to secure his boat, when he was finally released a few days later, with barely any money in his pocket, he found the remains of his boat and home blocking the boat ramp and faced the prospect of a huge fine.
Luke, Jayde, Ellie and Dan were at the local pub, where the word had travelled that the out of town salvage company was here to help out.
"He was a bit of a town legend and there were people coming up to us saying ' if you're going to help anybody, help Bruce because government agencies were trying to fine him for environmental damage because he was blocking the boat ramp," he said.
While Bruce wasn't able to save his boat, the team helped to relieve him of the pressure from the Department and local authorities, something for which he would be always grateful, Luke said.
Doing their normal work with a full production team on board was something the team had to get used to, but Luke said they managed without too much trouble.
"It's definitely different, it took a bit of getting used to but we got used to it pretty quick, which is when all the best stuff happened.
"It's when you forgot - and that's the thing with salvage jobs because they are so intense and so full on all the time, you forget all the things that are going on around you."
Life hasn't changed too much for the crew since their return to WA.
Jayde and Luke also spoke about how much the support from the folks back in Busselton meant to them, but it's not just one town supporting Marine Salvage and Rescue anymore. Airlie Beach is also claiming the friendly, down to earth crew as locals and they have cemented their place in the Whitsundays for a long time to come.
Tune in to season two of Aussie Salvage Squad to see the team's daring rescues, high-risk salvages and the bonds they forged with locals on Discovery Channel from June 28 at 7:30pm.