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21 NSW volunteer surf lifesavers are among a list of 36 nationally to be recognised by Surf Life Saving Australia with a SLSA Rescue Medal in recognition of their outstanding rescue efforts and commitment to keeping Australia’s coastline safe.

Members from Avalon Beach SLSC, Port Kembla SLSC, Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest SLSC, and Terrigal SLSC were honoured by the national body on Thursday 22 December.

Jason Dale and Nick Sampson of Avalon Beach were recognised for their flood relief efforts in July in Sydney’s west, Mark Peterlin and Dan Meehan of Port Kembla for their search and rescue efforts on ANZAC Day 2022, and Philip Everett, Anthony Logue, Phillip Daniel, Stuart Daniel, Carolyn Jeffries, Sharon Taylor each for their efforts in an after-hours rescue from a dangerous rip current.

Glenn Bowles, Peter O’Malley, Paul Quick, Toni Jones, Deb Barnes, Chayse Coleman, Jill Heaton, Ric Morrey, Adam Brierley of Terrigal were recognised for an off-patrol rescue in April whereby the beach had been closed due to dangerous conditions, and Todd Barber, Zachary Dale, again of Avalon Beach, were recognised after retrieving three boys from a sinking vessel.

Between July 2021 and June 2022, there was an increase in coastal drowning deaths across NSW that saw the toll rise to 55, up 4 on the year before and up significantly on the 10-year average.

If it wasn’t for the tireless efforts of volunteer surf lifesavers and lifeguards, those numbers would have been much higher.

Surf lifesavers also formed vital roles within the emergency response teams for flood rescue operations across the state.

The SLSA Rescue Medal is a national initiative that recognises outstanding rescue skills and displays of resourcefulness in exceptional circumstances on or off the beach.

Surf Life Saving NSW President, George Shales OAM, said he was incredibly proud of the efforts of the entire membership, and reflected on the courage shown by those recognised with SLSA Rescue Medals in an emergency response.

“Thanks to the incredible acts of bravery by these volunteer surf lifesavers, many people returned home to their family and friends who otherwise may not have done so,” he said.

“Every drowning is a tragedy, and last year we had a record number in NSW. It illustrates the importance of the service our organisation provides.

“Last year, surf lifesavers, Australian Lifeguard Service lifeguards and support operations rescued more than 4000 people in NSW, and volunteers spent over 621,000 hours on patrol.

“The number of emergency callouts responded to by Surf Life Saving increased to 791 for the year. Our efforts on the NSW coastline are more important than ever.

“On behalf of Surf Life Saving NSW, I would like to extend our thanks to the SLSA National Medal recipients and reiterate how proud we are of our 76,000 members.”

NSW SLSA Rescue Medal Recipients

Avalon Beach SLSC | Hoxton Park Road, Liverpool | Jason Dale, Nicholas Sampson

Jason Dale and Nicholas Sampson were returning to a hotel in July after being posted for a full day with SES on flood rescue, when they found themselves caught in flash flooding.

The rescue support varied from pulling individuals out of cars, carrying elderly and children to self-made safety evacuation points through high waters as well as escorting people and traffic to evacuation assembly points.

Their standout moment was rescuing an elderly woman and policewoman who were swept off their feet in fast moving water. They were able to come together to retrieve both people before they were swept into a raging creek. The rescues and evacuations continued for close to two hours before further assistance from approximately 20 police and SES volunteers.

Without Jason and Nicholas’s exceptional skills, expertise, and fitness levels, the likely outcome would have been several lives lost from flash flooding.

Port Kembla SLSC | Honeycomb Rocks | Mark Peterlin, Dan Meehan

On ANZAC Day, the Port Kembla SLSC patrol were notified that a fisherman had been swept off Honeycomb Rocks, which is a notoriously dangerous part of the coast.

Mark Peterlin and Dan Meehan responded immediately, launching the Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) and making several attempts to navigate the large swell and dangerous conditions. Eventually, a short lull in the surf allowed the IRB to travel to the rocks where police services were also located.

Upon arrival they found a distressed male, struggling to stay afloat in the water. After rescuing the patient, they were notified that the patient had jumped into the water to rescue someone else.

A search and rescue commenced but unfortunately the missing person was unable to be located. Mark and Dan are commended for their bravery, expertise, and knowledge of the area to ensure all efforts were made to rescue the patients.

Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest SLSC | Tea Gardens Hawks Nest SLSC | Philip Everett, Anthony Logue, Phillip Daniel, Stuart Daniel, Carolyn Jeffries, Sharon Taylor

The Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest SLSC patrol members were finishing their shift when they were notified that a woman was caught in a rip approximately 80 metres offshore.

The patrol responded immediately, with members entering the water on rescue boards, while others prepared to launch the Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB). One member positioned themselves on a vantage point and began directing resources to the patient.

Several attempts were made to rescue the distressed and exhausted patient in the challenging conditions. The patient was eventually rescued and transported safely to shore in the IRB.

Without their quick thinking, teamwork, and determination to perform such a heroic rescue, the likely outcome would have been loss of life.

Terrigal SLSC | Terrigal Bend | Glenn Bowles, Peter O’Malley, Paul Quick, Toni Jones, Deb Barnes, Chayse Coleman, Jill Heaton, Ric Morrey, Adam Brierley

In April, the NSW coastline was experiencing large swell and strong winds. A group of 20 swimmers entered the water and as they approached the large group and redirected them to safer waters, four people were spotted in distress, a further 200 metres out to sea.

Several members entered the water with rescue tubes and with the assistance of nearby surfers, they began to swim the patients to shore. The Inflatable Rescue Boat soon arrived on scene to retrieve the critical patients.

All patients were returned safely to shore where first aid was administered until emergency services arrived. Without their expertise, lifesaving training and teamwork, multiple lives would have been lost.

Avalon Beach SLSC | Avalon Beach/ Careel Headland | Todd Barber, Zachary Dale

The State Operations Centre was notified of a 35ft vessel that was rapidly taking on water in the 45km/h winds and 4-5ft swell off Careel Headland. Zachary Dale and Todd Barber responded immediately, launching an Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) and navigating the challenging conditions to reach the vessel.

Upon arrival, they noticed three boys clinging to the top of the sinking vessel. They worked quickly to retrieve the patients and once they were safely onboard the IRB, the vessel sank. Shortly after, support teams arrived on scene to assist, and a Marine Rescue vessel transported the patients safely to shore.

Without their quick-thinking and skills to navigate the IRB in treacherous conditions, multiple lives could have been lost.

Thursday 22 December 2022