The determined effort of a group of Far South Coast surf lifesavers to go to the aid of a capsized vessel at Moruya has been recognised with the National Rescue of the Month Award for March 2018.
Surf lifesavers from across Australia gathered at Parliament House in the nation’s capital on Thursday for the quarterly presentation that honours the outstanding efforts of those who proudly wear the red and yellow.
The award was presented to the Far South Coast Support Operations crew (consisting of members from Broulee Surfers and Batemans Bay SLSCs), an important lifesaving asset in the region, and to Moruya SLSC which provided support and lifesaving assets.
Accepting the award for their efforts to help rescue six people were surf lifesavers Ben Ralston, Shaun Pike, Andrew Edmunds, former NRL player Michael Weyman and the father-son trio of Anthony, Ken, and Mick Bellette.
This was a highly skilled callout team with many years of experience and rescues under their belt, which was extremely fortunate as this incident demanded all of their skills.
The incident unfolded shortly before 7am on 24 March after a small vessel capsized while trying to negotiate the notorious Moruya River bar in challenging conditions.
The Far South Coast Support Operations team and Moruya SLSC were the closest surf lifesaving assets to the incident and unsure of what they would face, they responded in a jetski and Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) after learning that there were multiple people in the water.
Local fishing boats witnessed the incident and had pulled two people from the water prior to the arrival of the lifesavers, who quickly went to work assessing the situation.
One of those rescued identified himself to the lifesavers as the father of a teenager who was missing.
There were immediate concerns for the teen’s welfare as it was thought she could have been trapped under the hull.
The lifesavers made an attempt to right the vessel but were unable to do so.
The rescued patients were ferried to shore by jetski, IRB and a Marine Rescue vessel with the lifesavers making multiple trips and providing initial first aid treatment.
A short time later the missing girl was located and pulled from the water. CPR treatment was administered while the IRB raced to shore where paramedics were waiting.
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of everyone involved in the rescue, the young girl was unable to be revived.
Andrew Edmunds, who operated the jetski that day, said it was a humbling, but bittersweet experience to receive the award.
“Nobody gets into Surf Life Saving for the awards or for the recognition, and it was not something any of us sought.
“This was an awful incident with a terrible outcome and I would like to say that our thoughts remain with the family,” said Andrew Edmunds.
“It’s been a difficult few months. I think every one of our team and those who were there on the day have been impacted by it, you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t, but we’ve supported each other and are doing better.”
Mr Edmunds also praised the efforts of all the responders who he said played an important role in keeping the situation under control.
“The members of the public, the paramedics, police, and everyone involved did an amazing job and deserve recognition for their role. These rescues do not happen in isolation.
“I think what this rescue highlights is the skills and training we receive as surf lifesavers and just how important it is for us to maintain this knowledge no matter where we patrol,” he said.
SLSNSW CEO Steven Pearce echoed the sentiments.
“The surf lifesavers involved showed great strength and courage in the face of this very sad incident, displaying an admirable sense of duty and compassion.
“Had they not reacted so quickly we could have been talking about an even bigger tragedy, and the fact we aren’t is a great credit to the individuals involved,” said Mr Pearce.
Thursday 21 June 2018