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It might be a two-hour drive to the nearest patrolled beach but for a group of Central Coast surf lifesavers, Canberra’s Parliament House turned decidedly red and yellow on Monday as they were honoured for an exceptional rescue effort of two teenagers at the notorious Snapper Point.

Central Coast Support Operations Team Members Brianna Coyte (Towoon Bay SLSC), Sean Leister (The Lakes SLSC), and fellow The Lakes Members Anthony Smith and Gavin Brown were in the nation’s capital to accept the prestigious National Rescue of the Month Award for September.

At a ceremony attended by Co-Chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving, the Hon Sarah Henderson MP, Member for Corangamite, and the Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP, Member for Kingsford Smith, with a host of key Federal Members attending the ceremony, the lifesavers were honoured alongside their Queensland counterparts Emu Park SLSC and Lifeguards from the ALS who won the award for July/August and October respectively.

It is the second national award that the Central Coast Support Operations Team have received in 2018 after taking out the award in June after they too responded to an incident at Snapper Point.

The fact that both of these stories had a happy ending is a credit to the skill and professionalism of the local surf lifesavers.

As people familiar with the history of the area would know all too well the stretch of the coast between Lake Munmorah Conservation area and Catherine Hill Bay has claimed the lives of many people.

Unfortunately, the caves that capture the imagination of explorers can be a dangerous environment. Trapped in a cave with a rapidly rising tide has caught many people out and requires a prompt response from surf lifesavers.

The events that led to the lifesavers on the path to Canberra began on Saturday 15 September when Central Coast Duty Officers David Sneddon, Glen Clarke, and Josh Cole received a call at around midday alerting them to the fact that two teenagers were stranded in a cave at Snapper Point.

The incident prompted a multi-agency response with Police, and Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter joining volunteer surf lifesavers at the scene.

A rising tide meant that escape was impossible for the swimmers and it was decided that a jetski and Inflatable Rescue Boat were the best assets to attempt a rescue.

The craft were quickly launched at The Lakes SLSC and made their way to the location.

The Central Coast Support jetski driven by Sean Leicester was able to drop Brianna Coyte at the entrance to swim into the cave and assist the female patient to swim out to the jetski safely.

She then returned to the cave to rescue the young male.

Both patients were transferred to the IRB crewed by The Lakes members Anthony Smith and Gavin Brown and taken to Fraser Park Beach.

Fortunately, they were unharmed from their ordeal.

Speaking after the rescue Brianna Coyte said while it was a humbling experience to receive the award the lifesavers were well prepared having done a training exercise that almost mirrored the eventual rescue just a month previously. 

“The rescue itself was surreal. The swimmers had been trapped for so long, (and it’s obviously a high public interest area), people had gathered and it was very intense,” said Brianna Coyte. 

“In the immediate aftermath of the rescue; what really hit home for me was that two kids were going home safely to their parents because of us. 

“For me personally I am a bit embarrassed about all the attention but very proud to have played my part in what was a very technical but ultimately flawless team rescue."

SLSNSW Operations Manager Phil Ayres congratulated the lifesavers on this award. “This was an amazing effort by the surf lifesavers who reacted with great professionalism and care to avert what could have been a very different outcome.

“The Central Coast Support Operations team do fantastic work supporting local beaches and this is richly deserved recognition for their efforts,” Mr Ayres said.


Tuesday 4 December 2018