Skip to main content

An outdoor adventure guide and a group of students and school teachers he was leading were rescued in remote Kataway Bay yesterday after the guide suffered what is suspected to have been a heart attack. Thanks to the coordinated efforts of Surf Life Saving and other NSW Emergency Service agencies and the fact that the guide had a personal emergency beacon (EPIRB) with him, the group was located and transported to safety.

At approximately 4.15pm on Sunday 25 October, the newly opened Surf Life Saving NSW State Operations Centre was advised by Police that they had received a call to Triple-0 requesting assistance for a man was suffering a suspected heart attack in the remote Kataway Bay area of Myall Lakes on the NSW Lower North Coast.

Kataway Bay is not easily accessible by land or air, so NSW Police requested assistance from Surf Life Saving NSW to access the man by water.

The Pacific Palms Surf Life Saving Club Emergency Callout Team was activated and husband and wife team of Jerrad and Jeanette Allen immediately towed an inflatable rescue boat (IRB) to the Neranie Boat Ramp near Seal Rocks – the closest launch point to the suspected location of the guide and school group. They were the first to arrive at the location and were soon joined by Police and Ambulance teams.

Conditions at the time were not favourable with high winds, fog and rain squalls hampering attempts to locate the Blue Mountains Grammar School group who had been kayaking on Myall Lakes as part of an outdoor adventure camp.

Thankfully, the group’s guide had taken a personal emergency locator beacon (EPIRB) with him and activated it. The group’s location was immediately identified by emergency services and relayed from the SLSNSW State Operations Centre via radio to the Pacific Palms search and rescue team in the IRB who had been searching for the group in an area nearby.

The callout team of Jerrad and Jeanette Allen soon located the school group and treated their 50-year old guide who was suffering from severe chest pain. He was stabilised, wrapped in a space blanket for warmth and transported conscious and breathing back to the Neranie Boat Ramp, some 15 minutes away, where Ambulance paramedics were waiting to provide treatment. The man was later transported to Manning Base Hospital in Taree in a stable condition.

Meanwhile, the group of school children, their teachers and their kayaks were transported from Kataway Bay back to Neranie Boat Ramp by the Pacific Palms IRB and a State Emergency Service (SES) boat. It was dark by this stage and the boats and kayaks were joined in a chain behind the SES boat which had navigation lights and was certified for night operations.

Dave Ellis from Pacific Palms SLSC, who was the Duty Officer tasked to the incident, said that the biggest challenges the search and rescue team faced was the remote location, the weather and the intermittent communications.

“One hundred percent the EPIRB was useful. If you’re going to remote locations with just a mobile phone you are in trouble from the start,” Dave Ellis said.

“Thankfully, the school’s outdoor guide was a professional. It shows you the importance of a personal EPIRB.  Some people say Myall Lakes is not remote but if you are more than 15 minutes away from help, you are by definition remote,” Dave said.

“They did the right thing and stayed together. They also had the right equipment and thankfully everyone went home and that’s the best outcome we can hope for as an emergency service,” Dave Ellis concluded.

Director of Lifesaving at Surf Life Saving NSW, Joel Wiseman, said that the successful rescue of the school group and their guide was a great example of a well-coordinated, multi-agency response.

“I want to congratulate the Pacific Palms SLSC callout team for their fast, professional response in challenging conditions. It is testament to their training and their preparedness that there was a positive outcome,” Joel Wiseman said.

Surf Life Saving NSW would like to acknowledge the efforts of the Pacific Palms Callout Team including Jannette and Jerrad Allen, Janne and Tony Moran, Dave and Michelle Ellis and Kel McCredie and congratulate them on their part in the successful search and rescue operation.


Monday 26 October 2020