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The rescue of a rock fisherman at Kiama has won volunteer surf lifesavers the NSW Rescue of the Month award for July/August 2019.

On Sunday 4 August 2019, a 58-year-old rock fisher, Jimmy Huang, from Campbelltown, was fishing at Little Blowhole, Kiama when his rod became jammed. He lost his footing attempting to free the rod and fell into the water. He was fully-clothed and was wearing a lifejacket and fishing cleats.

Mr Huang had been fishing with his brother who was unable to notify emergency services because he could not speak English. Mr Huang was in the water for an hour before passers-by noticed him in considerable distress and called Triple Zero.

The Surf Life Saving NSW State Operations Centre was contacted by Police and tasked the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter, the South Coast Branch volunteer Duty Officer, the Kiama Jet Rescue Boat Service and the Kiama SLSC callout team.

Rhys Dawson, Bradley Dawson and Toby Streamer from Kiama SLSC responded to the incident, quickly mobilising an Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB).

They soon located Mr Huang floating 400 metres off East Beach headland.

Brad Dawson from Kiama SLSC said Mr Huang was almost hypothermic and very grateful at the arrival of his rescuers. Despite wearing an approved lifejacket, he was exhausted after being in the water for so long.

“The man was extremely cold but very appreciative when we found him. It was great that he was wearing a life jacket but he had been in the water for over an hour,” said Brad Dawson.

After he was picked up by the IRB, Mr Huang as taken to East Beach for treatment because conditions were too rough to return safely to Kiama. Multiple ambulances were dispatched to the incident and paramedics treated Mr Huang for mild hypothermia and water ingestion.

Conditions were hazardous at the time of the incident with large sea swells hitting the NSW coast. Surf Life Saving NSW and the Bureau of Meteorology had issued hazardous surf warnings for the weekend.

A police officer who also attended the incident sustained injuries, including a broken leg, while attempting to locate the fisherman on the rock platform. Volunteer lifesavers and the NSW Fire Brigade treated the police officer before paramedics arrived.

Surf Life Saving NSW President George Shales commended the response of the volunteer surf lifesavers.

“Had it not been for the fast response and the readiness of the lifesaving assets there may have been a very different outcome,” said George Shales.

“These lifesavers are highly skilled in navigating the IRB in the rough conditions and we’re extremely proud of their efforts. They are very deserving recipients of this award,” he said.

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 National Rescue of the Month and become finalists for the SLSNSW Rescue of the Year which is presented at the annual Awards of Excellence. Laerdel are proud supporters of Surf Life Saving NSW. Rescue of the Month winners receive Laerdel gift vouchers as recognition of their achievements. Ten prizes are awarded annually.