Determination and dedication to rescue a stranded caver at Snapper Point in June has earned a team of Central Coast surf lifesavers the prestigious National Rescue of the Month Award in Canberra.
The heart of democracy in Australia, Parliament House, turned red and yellow on Thursday as a ceremony to mark the efforts of the nation’s top surf lifesavers was held.
David Smith, Paul Dowdell, Anthony Smith, Michael Dean, Phillip Murphy, John Dosanjh and Warren Evrard from local surf lifesaving clubs including Terrigal, Shelly Beach, The Lakes, Toowoon Bay, and The Entrance are all members of the Central Coast Support Operations Team, honoured for their efforts by the Australian Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving.
The incident the NSW surf lifesavers were recognised for occurred on 6 June 2018. Around 3pm, an emergency call for assistance was received by the Central Coast Duty Officer explaining that a man had been stranded, cut-off by a rising tide while exploring Snapper Cave near Frazer Park.
The area is a notorious blackspot for drownings and the powerful conditions, along with the rapidly fading light, presented a huge challenge for the emergency responders.
Two Duty Officers, the Central Coast Support Operations Jetski, and members from the local Aquatic Rescue Team all raced to the scene along with Police and Paramedics.
The 30-year-old-patient endured an uncomfortable hour or so as he faced the reality that there was no way for him to exit the cave without assistance.
Luckily he had decided to wear a lifejacket that day, which proved to be very useful during the rescue effort.
Just after 4:30pm, ocean conditions had abated enough for the lifesavers to make their move.
David Smith (Jetski operator) and Paul Dowdell (swimmer) were able to launch their craft from Frazer Beach in an operation which was later described as “hazardous”.
Using all their skills and experience, David and Paul were able to negotiate the break and proceed to the cave entrance.
Once on-scene the pair realised that the swell was too large to attempt a landing of the Jetski, so Paul swam into the cave to reach the stranded explorer.
Paul could see that the man was close to hypothermia but was essentially uninjured and keen to make his escape.
After they both made the short swim out of the cave, the patient was transported back to shore on the Jetski where he was assessed by paramedics and given a clean bill of health.
“We’ve got a fantastic rescue team here on the Central Coast and it certainly makes the job out on the water easier knowing that you have that support back on the beach,” said a modest David Smith.
“You don’t go into Surf Life Saving for recognition, but you get a lot back through the mateship and the people you meet. I’d like to think we’re a very professional team.”
While ultimately the rescue was relatively straightforward, the rescuers admitted the incident posed some challenges.
“The conditions were certainly fairly tricky on the day with a strong swell, but the patient made the right decision by electing to wait it out after he got stranded while exploring the caves with his mates.
“It was good he was wearing a lifejacket as well as it did assist us in the rescue effort,” Mr Smith said.
SLSNSW CEO Steven Pearce feels that the national honour represents an ideal time to reflect on the amazing work that volunteer surf lifesavers do on and off the beach.
“It’s always fantastic to see our members recognised for their efforts which on this occasion occurred during their winter break, and I was delighted to be able to witness the ceremony today in Canberra firsthand.”
“The teamwork and professionalism displayed by the Central Coast surf lifesavers during the whole incident was impressive and they deserve to be congratulated,” said Mr Pearce.
Thursday 13 September 2018