Bruce Kelly Wins National and NSW Rescue of the Month

A long-serving North Narrabeen clubbie has earned the prestigious National and NSW Rescue of the Month award for February after single-handedly rescuing a family of four who got in difficulty literally outside his house.

On Friday 13 February at approximately 7:15pm Bruce Kelly was relaxing after a long day when his wife Luci heard cries for help coming from the ocean outside their Narrabeen home.

She immediately alerted her husband and within seconds he had grabbed his patrol shorts that were fortuitously on top of the washing pile, and went to get his surf ski to help.

“My mind was racing, I decided to take my surf ski without the paddle as I needed a large flotation device and foot straps for the swimmers to hang on to and I would paddle it like a surf board,” Mr Kelly said.

From his new vantage point on the beach, he could see that it was a father and three young children caught in a strong rip around 100 metres off-shore.

After assessing the situation, Bruce paddled to the nearest child, a 12 year-old boy who was about 50 metres from the beach and advised him to swim across the rip to a sandbank where he made it back to shore. Bruce then paddled further out to where he came across a 7-year-old girl struggling to stay afloat. He managed to stop her from sinking and encouraged her to hold onto the foot strap of the surf ski.

Bruce’s attention then switched to getting the third child to grab hold of the ski, and then with the aid of a favourable wave he paddled both children back to the beach. The pair became hysterical as they knew that their Dad was still out in the treacherous surf so Bruce and a member of the public who was passing by reassured them that their father would be okay.

Once he reassured himself that the children were safe, Bruce went back into the water in an attempt to rescue the father who had now drifted around 120 metres off-shore.

While paddling through a particularly heavy set, Bruce himself got into difficulty as he begun to suffer from the effects of an asthma attack. Knowing that the father was struggling with exhaustion, he gritted his teeth and continued to push on.

“I had to make a choice, should I continue and risk myself becoming a patient, or do I persevere and hope for the best with restricted breathing?

“I made the decision to keep going knowing that the father was struggling and I didn’t know how long he could continue to stay afloat,” he said.

Once he reached the father, Bruce took a moment to regain his breath and together they paddled safely back to the beach.

This rescue highlights that no matter what time of the day or night, surf lifesavers are always on patrol and willing to put their life on the line.

There is no doubt without the quick response by Bruce Kelly the situation could have ended very differently.

“I feel so humble that I have saved one family from a possible catastrophe by using my skills learnt from the volunteers of North Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club and the Australian lifesaving community,” a modest Mr Kelly said after the rescue.

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.

Tue 31 Mar 2015