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Far South Coast Duty Officer Cheryl McCarthy knows that the commendable efforts of Batemans Bay SLSC and Broulee Surfers SLSC patrolling members ensured an unfortunate incident at Surf Beach was not far worse – she sees it every week in her role at Branch level.

When lifesavers arrived on scene at the unpatrolled Far South Coast beach on Sunday 17 April just after 2pm, they found a number of people in varying degrees of distress in the water and on the rocks – reaffirming an earlier report that several groups had entered the water and were in need of rescue.

Lifesavers acted quickly, assisting eight people from the water and accounting for 10 in total. While unfortunately, following CPR and after being airlifted to a local hospital, a 41-year-old woman could not be revived, the swift response and critical thinking of those involved saw many lives saved on the day.

“The Batemans Bay patrol team was wrapping up for the day when the tasking came through, but they didn’t hesitate – they were straight in the boats and were even joined by call out team members who had not been on patrol that day,” Cheryl said.

“Once the initial 10 people were out of the water Broulee brought two crews and IRBs to help ensure there was no one else out there. So many people had gone in and we had mixed information – some said 12, we had 10, so we had to make sure.

“It’s fantastic to have this commitment to public safety amongst the membership.”

As with all incidents in the region, Cheryl praised the flexible nature of their approach to tasking.

“With the sheer distances we have to cover down here, we’ve found a way of tasking which makes sure we have the quickest response possible,” she said.

“It was in action here – the Duty Officers (DO) work really well together and when the call came through, we decided I wasn’t the closest DO so the nearest one went straight out to the scene and was there in just minutes.

“There’s really no reason to delay things so we share it out.

“I was able to maintain an idea of what was happening from the radio communications, and seeing that a critical incident was unfolding I was able to task a State Welfare Officer who was there when they got off the water.

“Everyone deals in their own space and time, but they were all part of a debrief as they came off the water, and there will be a more in depth debrief this afternoon (Tuesday) where we will come back together as a group and talk it through.”

Reflecting on the incident, Cheryl had some sage words about water safety and understanding your limitations in the surf.

“The ocean can be so unpredictable, and conditions can change quickly,” she said.

“Somewhere you were swimming just 10 minutes ago might have developed a rip and it’s so important to learn how to identify them.

“If you’re ever not sure just head to one of our patrolled beaches and the lifesavers there would be happy to answer your questions and give you some tips on identifying rips.”

Tuesday 19 April 2022