HELPERS: Some of the volunteers from VMR Round Hill at their open day on January 4, 2020.
HELPERS: Some of the volunteers from VMR Round Hill at their open day on January 4, 2020.

’Hit home hardest’: Helping in 1770’s major disasters

WHEN the Spirit of 1770 caught alight and when the FV Dianne sank off the coast of Seventeen Seventy, there was one group of volunteers there to help out.

Volunteer Marine Rescue Round Hill will be celebrating 45 years in April, with secretary Josie Meng, who joined in 1990, one of the longstanding volunteers.

The VMR is a not for profit organisation that provides search and rescue services to the boating public.

The Round Hill group has 15 active volunteers, ranging from skippers to boat crew to people who listen to the radios.

“(VMR Round Hill) started because of the need for people to have safe entry into the reef and people traversing the coast,” Ms Meng said.

“In those days people used their own boats to do all that.”

Round Hill received their first rescue boat in the late 80s, followed by a half cabin in 1993, a 7m vessel and the newest addition, a 9m vessel in 2004.

VMR Round Hill Rescue boat.
VMR Round Hill Rescue boat.

Through her years Ms Meng has helped co-ordinate several searches and rescues, notably when FV Dianne sank in 2017 and the Spirit of 1770 fire evacuation in 2016 where 42 passengers were rescued.

“(The Spirit of 1770 fire) was the biggest major disaster on the east coast of Queensland and no loss of life,” Ms Meng said.

“The skipper and the crew at the time did a marvellous job.

“Our vessel and Gladstone VMR all contributed to bringing everyone back to safety.”

However the searches after the FV Dianne sank, where two bodies were found, but four were never recovered, still weighs on the volunteers.

“It was a tragic set of circumstances,” she said.

“I think that probably hit home hardest because we had no closure after those 10 days’ searching.”

She said many of the volunteers were people who enjoyed boating but the people who signed up just wanted to help their community.

She said it would be good to have more volunteers, but there was a process.

“It’s a minimum of six months to do your competences to start off with and if you want to be a skipper that’s a lot more training,” she said.