MAF pilot flying plane

As the world prepared to see in the New Year, a pastor, his wife and four children were isolated in a remote location – several hours away from raising the alarm.

A MAF medevac flight can cut days of waiting for families caught in an outback incident.

Pastor Peter Morreau of Oasis Church, Nhulunbuy, and his family were on their way to Darwin on New Year’s Eve when they had an accident just before midnight.

“It’s a 10 to 12-hour drive to Katherine,” said Peter. “We left on Sunday afternoon, after church, planning to arrive around midnight and then continue to Darwin the following day.”

Seven hours out from Nhulunbuy, the rough outback road changed their plans in an instant when their vehicle flipped over on a corner 30km from Bulman, a small outpost with no police or first responders and several hours from the nearest town.


Crashed vehicle
In light of the significant damage to the car, the Morreau family sustained miraculously minor injuries.

Their vehicle was badly damaged, but Peter and his four children were miraculously unhurt apart from some bruising. Peter’s wife Natalie sustained a laceration to the head and a suspected fracture of her hand.

“We had no mobile or radio reception,” Peter said. “We waited for 12 hours before the first car passed and we were able to alert the clinic in Bulman.”

Their options were disheartening. A rescue with Careflight, the region’s main medical air service, would only have catered for Natalie, and because her situation was not critical, she would have had to wait for 3-4 days for the flight. Katherine, the nearest town, was a five-hour drive away, but their vehicle was undrivable. They were advised to call MAF.

Without MAF, we would have been truly stuck for ways to get out.
Pastor Peter Morreau

Peter and his family had flown in the past with MAF for homelands gospel outreaches, but he didn’t know whether MAF would fly all the way down to Bulman, and on a public holiday.

However, MAF’s response was very quick.

Family standing in front of aeroplane
Pastor Peter Morreau and his family returning home to Nhulunbuy on the MAF medevac flight.

“I called MAF at about 8-9 in the morning,” said Peter. “They sent a plane out by 2pm, and we were back in Nhulunbuy the same day.”

Matthew Kaye was one of the two MAF pilots rostered on standby for New Year’s Day. He remembers thinking, “It’s going to be a busy day.”

Sure enough, both pilots were deployed for several urgent flights, and Matthew was assigned to the Bulman flight.

“We were in a position to send out a plane to pick up the whole family,” said Matthew. “Being able to bring everyone back, that's the difference. Not only were we able to bring Natalie back, but the entire family, and that was important.”

The agile planes flown by MAF in Arnhem Land are crucial to MAF’s capacity to respond to medevac and LAPT (low acuity patient transfer) calls throughout the region.

MAF plane landing
Peter Higham
VH-MQI is one of MAF Arnhem Land’s versatile GA8 aircraft.

“We have the aircraft and piloting skills required to go into short airstrips in challenging conditions,” said Matthew. “At MAF we believe in going the extra mile - we're willing to care and respond to people's needs, both Yolngu and Balanda (westerners).”

The Morreau family was bruised and shaken by the accident, but their speedy return home was a relief.

“Natalie was OK, her hand wasn’t fractured, even though it’s still painful,” said Peter. “Without MAF, we would have been truly stuck for ways to get out. It was amazing service, and we’re truly grateful.”