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A team of surf lifesavers from one of Sydney’s smallest clubs were in the nation’s capital on Thursday to receive their award for winning the prestigious Australian Rescue of the Month award for October.

Representatives from Burning Palms SLSC were at Parliament House alongside winners from other states to honour the efforts of our wonderful surf lifesavers.

Last October, Burning Palm SLSC members Annabel Braithwaite-Young, Chris Fogwell, Paul Cooper, Eloise Cooper, Eri Shinomoto, Terry Danne, Matthew Braithwaite-Young, Letitia Cooper, Elizabeth Feletar were gearing up for their regular patrol at around 10:15am on Saturday the 15th when a member of the public alerted them that their friend had fallen off a cliff near the famed Figure Eight Pools in Sydney’s south.

On hand to represent the club at Thursday’s ceremony was 8 of the members who were on patrol that October day as well as Federal MP for Cunningham Sharon Bird who congratulated the lifesavers from her electorate on their efforts, and representatives from Surf Life Saving Australia.

“It was an absolutely fantastic day at Parliament House and was really well organised,” said Patrol Captain Annabel Braithwaite-Young.

“For our little club it was an honour to be recognised and it’s the first time we’ve ever won an award of this type. We don’t do it for the glory as lifesavers we’re just there to help out anyone on the beach.

“What was so impressive for me and particularly important for our young patrol members who came to ceremony as well was to hear the stories of the other states. They were all so different but we all share a love of the ocean and it was just great for them to meet them as well,” she said.   

One of the challenges of this rescue was that the incident happened in an area that is extremely difficult to access. After trekking to the scene (which has no road access) the group found the man with severe injuries to his head, arm, legs, rib and back. It is believed that he fell from a height of between 5-10 metres.

Adding to complexity of the situation was that this season is Annabel Braithwaite-Young’s first as Patrol Captain but she rallied the rest of the patrol to not only take immediate control of the scene, but also ensure beach was still covered which including watching over the Nippers session.  

The first priority for the team was to establish radio communication with the State Operations Centre who would provide support especially in an area where maintaining signal strength is always a challenge.

They then worked on providing initial first aid to the man who was in a distressed state. During this time they kept him calm and administered oxygen while also providing regular radio updates on his condition.

An additional duty for the lifesavers was to manage the crowds and prepare the area for extraction. This was particularly important for when the helicopter landed as some witnesses were in danger of getting too close.

The rescue has a happy postscript. After being in an induced coma for over three months due to his injuries sustained in the fall the club recently received word that the young man has been flown home to Canada where he continues to make a slow but steady recovery. 

“Over the course of the 4 hours or so that this incident took place I couldn’t be prouder of how the team performed. I always say to people we’re a bushwalking loving club with a great beach as well. So to win this award it’s very humbling and I’m glad we could all play our part in helping extract the patient, and to hear the news that he’s on the mend is just absolutely fantastic,” Annabel Braithwaite-Young said.

Friday 9 February 2018