Avoca Beach Win NSW Award For Mass Rescue

A mass rescue effort of two families who smashed onto rocks by a rogue wave at Avoca Beach on Australia Day earned a group of local Lifesavers the prestigious NSW Rescue of the Month for January.

On Tuesday 26 January at least 17 surf lifesavers from Avoca Beach SLSC were involved in the treatment of 11 beachgoers including some with serious injuries who had been knocked over by a freak wave on the rocks south of the clubhouse at around 12pm.

The patrolling members had just signed on to start their Australia Day shift when a member of the public advised the group that people had been swept off the rocks and required urgent assistance.

As the patrol was aware there were many people in distress, the IRB was dispatched immediately with Matt and Mackenzie Penn onboard with Kristy McQueen following on a rescue board.

“I jumped in the rubber duckie with my 15 year old daughter, Mackenzie and once we arrived at the rocks we could see the commotion so we radioed the patrol and they made their way over the rocks to assist,” Avoca Beach SLSC Patrol Captain Matt Penn said.

“It looked like two families travelled up from Sydney to spend Australia Day at Avoca Beach and had gone walking around the rocks when they got smashed by a rogue wave.”

When they arrived at the location, onlookers were signalling that the incident had occurred on the rocks at the front of the cliff face, not in the water itself. The remaining patrolling members on the beach were radioed by Matt and Mackenzie to come and assist as 11 people had suffered injuries.

Kristy made the brave decision to pass her rescue board to Mackenzie and climb up the rocks to provide assistance.

As Kristy and her fellow patrolling members arrived at the rocks it was ascertained that a number of the injured had broken bones or dislocated joints. The State Operations Centre were informed of the scale of the incident and they helped coordinate an ambulance response.

The injured who were aged between 10 and 70 years old informed their rescuers that they were at least 20 metres from the edge of the rocks when the freak wave washed them off their feet.

“It was organised chaos. We had plenty of communication on the radio back and forth between the surf lifesavers on the rocks and the beach,” Mr Penn said.

“The incident meant we had a shortage of lifesavers on the beach but we had a number of members from my patrol who weren’t involved in the rescue volunteered to man the beach so public safety was never at risk.”

A main concern during the rescue effort was how to transport the injured to a central location so first aid and care could be provided. Those who couldn’t walk were carried on spinal boards to the nearby carpark to wait for paramedics while those able to move under their own power were taken to the first aid room for treatment. After all the injuries were assessed, one of the patients was later transported to hospital.

“Avoca Beach can be hazardous and given the size of the swell on the day, the surf lifesavers dealt with the conditions extremely well,” Matt Penn explained.

“It’s really exciting to receive NSW Rescue of the Month and it’s great for all the young surf lifesavers who were involved in the rescue.”

The efforts of the Avoca Beach surf lifesavers was outstanding as they provided a high level of care to a large number of injured beachgoers. They also showed great determination and bravery to carry the injured across the rock shelf and safely back to the beach.

The SLSNSW Rescue of the Month aims to recognise excellence in lifesaving. Each month a ‘Rescue of the Month’ is awarded at State level for the most outstanding rescue performance for that period. Monthly winners have the chance to win the Australian Rescue of the Month and become finalists for the SLSNSW Rescue of the Year which is presented at the annual Awards of Excellence.

For official citations and past recipients please visit the Rescue of the Month Recognition Page

Fri 19 Feb 2016