On Saturday July 20 a woman and her two children, aged 8 and 15, were rescued by an off-duty Lifeguard after being washed off the rocks at Fingal Bay, near Port Stephens.

The family of four were whale watching on a Fingal Bay rock platform when they were hit by a series of large waves. The woman, in her forties, and her two children were washed of the rocks and into the water.

Off-duty Australian Lifeguard Service (ALS) lifeguard, Andrew Parker, was at home when his daughter, who is a Nipper at the nearby Fingal Beach Surf Life Saving Club, noticed the family in the water and in distress and raised the alarm.

Thinking quickly, Andrew Parker grabbed his Surf Life Saving rescue board, ran onto the rocks and dived into the ocean. The lifeguard has previously competed in the Coolangatta Gold endurance event and is a highly competent board paddler.

He reached the family who had been swept 100 metres out to sea. Andrew said that although the mother was a competent swimmer, her eight-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter were not. He said that they were in considerable trouble, struggling to stay above the water, when he arrived on his board.

Using his rescue board, Andrew kept the three afloat until a passer-by in an aluminium ‘tinny’ arrived on the scene. Andrew was able to assist the family to climb into the tinny.

The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter and Water Police were tasked to the incident after onlookers called Triple-zero (000).

The aluminium dinghy was escorted to shore by Police and the family were taken to hospital. They were treated for various minor cuts, abrasions and back and ankle injuries.

It is believed the two children are visiting Australia from the USA. They had ventured onto the rock platform to do some whale watching from a well-known vantage point. They were unaware of the dangers posed by sea swells on coastal rock platforms.

Conditions at the time of the incident were cold and dangerous with high winds and large sea swells.

Port Stephens Australian Lifeguard Service Supervisor, Phil Rock said that it was thanks to Andrew’s daughter and her surf club training as a Nipper that she was able to recognise the family was in distress and raise the alarm. He said it was also fortuitous that Andrew had a rescue board at his home that he was able to access during the emergency.

“If it wasn’t for Andrew’s daughter raising the alarm and his quick thinking and immediate response, the outcome could have been tragic for the family.”

“It’s testament to Andrew and his daughter’s heroic efforts that three lives were saved,” said Phil Rock.

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steven Pearce also commended Andrew and his daughter saying that had it not been for their fast response and Surf Life Saving training, that there may have been a very different outcome.

“We can’t stress enough the importance of taking responsibility for yourself when walking, whale watching or fishing on rock platforms. Please stop and think before putting yourself, your friends or family and our first responders in danger,” said Steve Pearce.

Rock Fishing Safety Tips

  • Check the weather, surf conditions and tides before going fishing

  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back

  • Always wear a lifejacket

  • Wear appropriate non-slip footwear and light clothing

  • Always fish with a friend

  • Check the warnings signs for information about the area

  • Never turn your back to the water

  • Do not try and retrieve anything that has fallen into the water

  • Do not jump in if someone falls into the water - wait for assistance or throw an ‘Angel Ring’ or Lifebuoy if there is one nearby

  • See the SLSNSW rock-fishing safety guide

  • Additionally, boaters are urged to always check conditions prior and to log on with their local Marine Rescue Base via radio or using the Marine Rescue App. Visit www.mrnsw.com.au for more information

  • Call Triple Zero – Police to report an in-water emergency.


Tuesday 23 July 2019