Bravery celebrated at the SLSA National Awards of Excellence
Surf Life Saving Australia tonight recognised 18 Meritorious Awards at the 2019 National Awards of Excellence held on the Gold Coast.
The Meritorious Awards recognised the significant results by both surf lifesavers and members of the public, who went gone above and beyond the call of duty to save a life.
Congratulations to the following award recipients:
GROUP CERTIFICATE OF MERIT
Geraldton SLSC, WA
On the 15 of September 2018, Linda Stott was stand-up paddle boarding when she observed a man on a sit-down kayak, fully clothed, shoes on, and no personal flotation device (PFD) heading into the channel. The man became disorientated when a wave washed him off his kayak. Struggling to get back on his kayak and being dragged by the current towards breaking waves, Linda paddled over to calm and reassure him. The pair got caught in several sets of waves and were being pulled out to sea. David Quimby, a club member surfing at the time, recognised the dangerous situation and paddled over to Linda and the patient. David assisted the patient onto his surfboard, before mounting the kayak and retrieving the paddle. Linda remained close by giving warnings as large waves threatened. The patient then started paddling but was quickly dumped again. David returned to help the patient again placing the patient on his surfboard. Remaining with the patient, he navigated both the patient and the patient’s kayak to shore, receiving assistance and continual reassurance from Linda. The combined efforts of Linda and David most certainly prevented a fatal outcome.
Sunshine Coast Emergency Response Group, QLD
At 5.45am on the 15 of November 2018, the Caloundra Coast Guard advised Duty Officer Graham Sharry of a male in a sinking kayak one kilometre east of Moffat Headland. The kayaker had been attacked by a 4.5m tiger shark and knocked 1.5 metres from his kayak. He swam back to his board to find the shark still gripping onto it before disappearing below the surface. The kayaker turned the board over calling for help via Coastguard. An air pocket prevented the kayak sinking and the shark did not attack again. Graham Sharry contacted supporting members and launched Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ) Waverunner 12 to search the area in difficult morning sunrise light, whilst Nathan Steer (ERG Met Cal), backed him up on a second RWC. Second ski operator Jacob Thomson, and coordinator Dave McLean and comms Andrew McNeily made up the ESM group. Graham Sharry located the relieved kayaker and the patient was returned to shore, thanking Graham and the Surf Life Saving team for saving his life.
Grange SLSC, SA
On Saturday the 1 of December 2018, Kate Poole and Hannah Darling were completing IRB training in choppy conditions and during a break, were providing water safety cover for over 70 Club members who were completing their proficiency swims. While carrying out water safety, they heard cries from the public on the Grange jetty that alerted them to someone in the water under the jetty. The surf lifesavers’ next actions almost certainly prevented a fatality as they manoeuvred the IRB expertly and safely to the jetty, called to get the attention of the patient, who momentarily raised her head before again submerging in the water. The pair used teamwork to calmly and effectively point out dangers, support each other verbally and physically in managing the patient’s distress and resistance to being saved. The surf lifesavers reassured an almost inconsolable patient, pulled her into the IRB and transported them back to the beach. Once on shore they sought immediate help and stayed with the patient until the ambulance arrived. The surf lifesavers’ actions, in a very challenging situation, are to be commended.
Lorne SLSC, Surf Coast Lifeguards, VIC
On the 14 of December 2018, three teenage males went swimming beside the rocks in front of Lorne SLSC. Lifeguards identified that the easterly swells, strong rips and rocks would prevent the swimmers returning safely to shore so they recruited volunteers to assist. Sam Ord paddled out on a rescue board and the Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB) was launched by Ellen Porter (driver), Jess Sincock (crew) and other volunteers. The conditions prevented the IRB picking up anyone on the first approach, however, a rescue tube was thrown, and swimmers were able to hold onto the tube and rescue board. The IRB was navigated out further through the swell and attempted a second approach during a break in the surf. This time the three swimmers were brought into the IRB, however a large wave caught the rescue board whilst the last patient was holding it and washed into shore. The IRB took a third approach to pick up lifesaver Sam and return everyone to the beach. This rescue demonstrated excellent collaboration between the lifeguards and volunteers in extremely difficult circumstances.
Soldiers Beach SLSC, NSW
On the 28 of October 2018, Patrol 4 surf lifesavers were preparing to finish their shift when three surfers entered the water from the rock shelf at the northern end of Soldiers Beach. The beach had been closed all day due to dangerous surf conditions. Patrol Vice Captain Matt Neale observed that the youngest group member was struggling after losing his board. Advising the patrol, Matt entered the water with a rescue board, negotiated large and powerful surf, reached the 16-year old male and headed for the shore. After manoeuvring through a turbulent back wash, and almost to the shore the pair were caught by a large set which dislodged them from the board. In the meantime, the remaining surfers were helped from the water by the patrol. With the assistance of Ian McGaw, Matt swam the patient away from the rock shelf and 400m across the beach expertly using the large rip current at the northern end of the beach. Finally, Matt caught a break in the surf to swim them both to the beach. Matt and patrol members spoke to the uninjured but shaken patients to assess and observe their condition.
GROUP CERTIFICATE OF MERIT – BRONZE INSERT
Bronte SLSC NSW (Rescue 1)
At 8:00pm on Tuesday the 29 of January 2019, 10 bathers of various ages and nationalities entered the water at Bronte Beach and were quickly swept out behind the reef by a rip current. The group, all poor swimmers, attempted to support each other, but panicked and found themselves in further difficulties. A Waverley Park Ranger notified Bronte SLSC members at the surf club. Club Captain James McLennan as well as Waverley Lifeguards Anthony Carrol and Julianna King, paddled out on rescue boards while others took additional rescue equipment to assist on the shoreline. Bronte SLSC member Kel Noble was already in the water on his racing board. He paddled over to one swimmer going under, pulled the person onto the board, and supported three more until assistance arrived. James coordinated his team’s response, and with Kel did a head count before heading to shore to further aid the struggling bathers. Others covered the mid-section and shoreline, and all bathers were assessed on shore. The speedy response and coordinated rescue efforts avoided what could have been multiple fatalities.
North Stradbroke Island Lifeguard Service, QLD
At 2.45pm on the 2 of September 2018, conditions had deteriorated at Point Lookout due to strong south-east winds. At South Gorge, a dangerous and unsupervised area, the swell had grown three to four feet and a rip current ran along the rock wall. Two females dared to swim there and were quickly pulled out along the rock wall. Their efforts to climb the rocks were unsuccessful as they were repeatedly hit by the waves. Backpackers witnessed the scene and Mikkel from Denmark jumped in to try to help. One of the females panicked and started pulling Mikkel under water, he too becoming a patient as both were smashed onto the rocks. The Lifeguard on duty, Michael Bates, arrived on a Rescue Water Craft (RWC) finding one swimmer unresponsive. A local surfer, Brook Gregory, arrived and tried to keep the patient’s head above water. With help from Mikkel they managed to get the patient onto the RWC mat in challenging conditions, before Michael took the patient to the shore. Brook stayed with the other patients, assisting them expertly through the rip current and taking them to shore. The serious rescue conducted by Michael, Brook and Mikkel was commended by both the North Stradbroke Island Queensland Police and Queensland Ambulance Services.
Bronte SLSC, NSW (Rescue 2)
At 7:00am on the 30 of August 2018, Troy Stewart and Anthony Carrol were conducting classes at Bronte, while Bronte SLSC members and Waverley Lifeguards Wally Eggleton and Andrew Reid, were about to start their 7am shifts. Troy spotted a distressed female swimmer at the Bogey Hole rock pool. Troy and Andrew swam out to assist and Wally followed with a rescue tube. Extreme conditions saw Andrew head back to shore, while Troy and Wally kept the female afloat. Anthony arrived on a rescue board, but first rescued and took to shore a male swimmer who had attempted to rescue the female before finding himself in trouble. Anthony then returned to collect the female swimmer with Troy and Wally assisting. With other Club members, Andrew carried her to a safe area to be assessed, as she had swallowed a large amount of water. She was transported to hospital where she made a full recovery. Coordination of skills and effort brought the rescue to a successful outcome.
Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters, NSW
On the 25 of August 2018, Chief Air Crew Officer Trevor Cracknell was off duty, finishing a surf just 700m from the Life Saver Base at Cape Banks, when he observed a small vessel with several people on board overturn 200m offshore. At 5.30pm Trevor called the Sydney-based Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter crew and activated the team. Within four minutes, the “Lifesaver 21” helicopter crew Captain Rick Walden (Pilot), Air Crew Officer John Molnar and Rescue Crew Officer Callum Good were airborne and transiting to the accident site in fading light. Upon arrival four people were clinging to the vessel’s hull. After briefing the mission, the crew commenced winching, first the patient without a life jacket and second, the patient who needed the most assistance. After the first two winches the crew flew back to the base, assessing the patients in transit, diagnosing hypothermia. The patients were left at the base while the crew continued the mission to complete the third and fourth rescues in ‘night-operation’ mode – last light was at 5.45pm. The crew battled blackness of the water, the large swell and aircraft downwash while securing the last two men, a feat which is perilously dangerous due to the lack of visual reference. Back safely at the base, NSW Ambulance had five car crews and nine paramedics standing by to treat the patients for hypothermia, before transporting them to hospital. The immediate alert by Trevor and the rapid response by the crew of Lifesaver 21 undoubtedly prevented a more serious outcome. \
North Cronulla SLSC, Elouera SLSC, Cronulla SLSC, Maroubra SLSC, and Sutherland Shire Council Lifeguards and Sydney Branch, NSW
At 1.54pm on the 17 of February 2019, at North Cronulla Beach, over 50 swimmers were washed off their feet and out to sea in a rip current. It was a busy day at the beach with over 2000 people at North Cronulla, 1000 people at a surf Australian Surf Rowers League surf boats carnival at Elouera Beach and many more at Bate Bay. The patrol tower surveillance contacted the patrol about the dangerous situation unfolding. Members of North Cronulla SLSC and Sutherland Shire Council Lifeguards swung into action as part of a mass rescue. Patrol flags were dropped, and the beach was closed. Twelve rescue boards, 6 rescue tubes, and an IRB were launched from the beach. Another two IRBs from Bate Bay Beach arrived, as well as a Sydney Branch Recue Water Craft (RWC) and two Sutherland Council RWCs. Three vehicles with six surf lifesavers and Council Lifeguards arrived from Elouera. At the strangely eerie but calm beach there was a regular procession of craft with surf lifesavers delivering relieved swimmers to the beach. The lifesavers with rescue boards and rescue tubes assisted swimmers to remain calm and safe until the power craft arrived to collect them. Back on the beach patrol members provided reassurance and support to those rescued and the many family members separated in the rescue. At 2.09 pm the last swimmers were returned to shore. Those involved with the rescue observed and reassured the public until all were reunited. Outstanding surf lifesaving skills and teamwork ensured no lives were lost.
Thomas Cervi Australian Lifeguard Service, QLD
Thomas was off duty enjoying a surfing trip off Dolphin Point, Noosa Heads when he noticed a patient unconscious beyond the surf break. To reach the patient, Thomas would have to push through a powerful 4-6 metre surf or attempt to climb nearby steep rocks and re-enter the water at a safer location. He felt it would be too dangerous to bring the man back through the waves so decided to climb the rocks. By now there were several by-standers on the rocks, one who had tried to help but now also required assistance in getting to a safe area. Thomas helped the man return to the rocks whilst continuing to support the patient. The Rescue Water Craft (RWC) had been called and now arrived to assist, throwing Thomas a rescue tube. By now Thomas had several friends assisting, one surfer threw a leg rope that was used to pull the patient to safety. An all-terrain vehicle (ATV) arrived with backup and members assisted Thomas with CPR on the patient. Sadly, and despite the brave actions of Thomas, the patient did not survive the tragic ordeal.
Surf Coast RWC Service, VIC
On the 10 of March 2019, Victoria Police advised Life Saving Victoria Comms of two persons trapped on a rock platform at the base of Split Point. Surf Coast RWC Service deployed Fairhaven SLSC members Alex Buckley and Alex Schwarcz operating the water rescue crafts (RWCs) and Michael Henderson as rescue swimmer. The RWCs encountered large seas and strong winds. At Split Point, Michael swam approximately 70 metres to reach the patients and determined one patient could speak English but not swim, while the other patient had no English but some swimming ability. Michael swam to the RWCs to obtain personal flotation devices (PFDs) and returned to fit them. He then swam both patients, fully clothed, back to the RWCs. The stronger swimmer was secured on the rear of one RWC, while Michael accompanied the non-swimmer on the back of the other RWC. Both craft departed Split Point to safety at Sunnymeade Beach. The lifesavers expertly drove away from the rock faces and timing was key to exiting the break. Upon arrival at Sunnymeade Beach, a medical assessment was carried out, and no further medical attention needed.
North Stradbroke Island Lifeguard Service, Pt Lookout SLSC, QLD
On New Year’s Day 2019, Frenchman’s Beach at North Stradbroke Island was experiencing rough conditions and its usual multiple rips when tragedy occurred. At 12.10pm, Lifeguard Logan Specht, on his lunchbreak at the top of Frenchman’s Headland was alerted by a member of the public about a struggling swimmer 150m offshore. Logan looked over the cliff edge, saw the swimmer and immediately contacted the Point Lookout station letting them know he was going down to help. Logan instructed his friend Tim MacDonald to take the soft pack down the steps, took the rescue board from his vehicle and ran down the side of the cliff. At 12.15pm, Logan and the Main Beach IRB driver and crew arrived at the patient who was face down, unconscious and unresponsive, pulled the patient into the IRB and headed back to Frenchman’s Beach. The patient was a 46-year old male whose daughter was also at the beach. At 12.18pm, CPR began with Lifeguard, Surf Life Saving crew Alex Langenberg and Anna Prasek, and members of the public helping. At 12.20pm Gil Rhodes arrived as WR8 Operator and began scene management coordinating resources and SurfCom. For over an hour, a diverse team consisting of the lifeguard, surf lifesavers – an off duty nurse, supportive members of the public, Queensland Ambulance Service officers, and R500 Flight doctors, did their very best to give the patient every chance of surviving, continuing CPR, staying at the scene, moving him away from the incoming tide, supporting each other and of course, comforting the patient’s daughter. Sadly at 1.30pm, doctors pronounced the patient deceased. This was the first major incident for many involved, so peer support was significant and the debrief acknowledged the remarkable effort by all team members.
Cabarita Beach SLSC, NSW
It was 1975 and Cabarita Beach was closed due to a large swell and treacherous conditions. Lifeguard and Beach Inspector, Mark Cummins finished his shift when four men jumped into the surf and immediately got swept out to sea. Mark took a torpedo buoy and enlisted two lifeguards to help both on rescue boards. Mark expertly used the rip current to get to the patients who were now 400m out and swam them over to the headland near the rocks where they managed to get to shore. Mark swam back out to help one of the lifeguards, Mick Border, who was struggling after his rescue board snapped. Mark reached Mick about one kilometre offshore and swam them out past the breakers. Club Captain Vince Craney, on a surf ski, paddled out towards the lifeguards, but his ski snapped in half too. Mark and Mick floated until dark and Mick’s condition started to deteriorate. Another lifeguard, Mick O’Brien, made it out on his board to Mark and Mick but was encouraged to head back and seek more help as Mick Border was in no condition to make it back on a board. On his return, Mick O’Brien’s board was smashed and Mark thought their situation was now hopeless. Two IRBs were dispatched, with one capsizing in the surf. Gordon Harmon, the skipper of the other IRB, and under the guidance of John Evans from the beach, spotted Mark and Mick with the aid of a flood light. After a series of rescue attempts, including a stalled engine, Mark and Mick made it back to shore as did the remaining stranded lifeguards. Mark never left Mick Border during the ordeal and his bravery has become legend.
Max Taylor, Wamberal SLSC, NSW
At 5.30pm on the 12 March 2019, 11-year old Wamberal Club member Max Taylor, was waiting for his dad following an after-school surf when he heard cries for help. Max could see worried beach onlookers and a panicked swimmer, a tourist who had just arrived in Australia, caught in a rip current heading out to sea. Council lifeguard services had finished for the day. Assessing the situation, Max ran back to the beach and paddled out on his surfboard. The tide was low, and one metre waves were breaking on the bank, making paddling difficult. When Max reached the swimmer, they were 150 metres offshore. The swimmer grabbed onto the board, fatigued and panicking, so Max jumped off his board, allowed time for the swimmer to settle down and asked him to get onto the board on his stomach. Max pushed the board and kicked from behind. Harry Carpenter, a member of Wamberal SLSC had seen the incident on his way home and paddled out to assist Max get the swimmer back to shore. Max’s father arrived in time to see the tourist, now fully recovered, shaking Max’s hand in appreciation before leaving the beach a lot wiser for his experience.
GROUP CERTIFICATE OF MERIT – BRONZE INSERT/GROUP COMMENDATION
Surf Life Saving Central Coast, NSW
At 3.12pm on the 6 of June 2018, Duty Officer Tony Smith received a callout request for attendance at Snapper Cave, a well-known blackspot for drownings, where a 30-year old male was trapped. A one metre south easterly swell washed into the cave making it too hazardous for a rescue helicopter or Volunteer Rescue Association abseil rescue. A rally point was established at nearby Frazer Beach and support operations responded. David Smith and Paul Dowdell brought the Rescue Water Craft’s (RWCs) from Surf Life Saving Central Coast and Lakes Beach SLSC, while Michael Dean, Phil Murphy and John Dosanjh arrived to assist in the launch and retrieval. David (RWC Operator) ad Paul (RWC Swimmer) were able to negotiate the break and proceeded to Snapper Cave but were unable to reach the RWC due to the swell. Paul swam into the cave, timing his entry between the waves, and ascertained that the patient was uninjured. However, the patient was hypothermic and panicked, but could swim and was willing to exit. Paul timed his entry back into the water ensuring the patient’s safe entry and assisted him onto the RWC sled. David was able to safely navigate the RWC carrying all three out of the cave – a critical phase of the rescue – and returned safely to shore where Ambulance crews gave the patients the all clear. An outstanding result in what could have been tragic circumstances.
Venus Bay SLSC, VIC
On New Year’s Day 2019, the surf conditions across the eight kilometre coastline at Venus Bay were dangerous with multiple rip currents. A roving patrol with lifesavers Taite Cumming (14yo), Alexander Duncan (15yo), and Sass Fagan, were dispatched to walk to “Beach 2”. At 1.30pm, lifesavers Lynda Randall and Craig Watson took the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) on mobile patrol to check Beaches 2 to 5. Minutes later, LSV Comms reported three swimmers in trouble at Beach 4. The ATV and walking patrol members joined forces and arrived to find two of the swimmers had been aided by other swimmers safely back to shore. The remaining swimmer was fatigued in a rip current bordered by two to three metre surf and 150m from shore. Craig sent Taite out on a rescue board and Alexander with a rescue tube while Sass was assigned to observe from high ground and report back. Lynda took over radio communication. Taite expertly used the rip current to navigate to the swimmer with Alexander close by to provide support. They positioned the exhausted swimmer onto the board and Taite then surfed the patient to shore. Paramedics and the Community Emergency Response Team provided medical care. The combination of an effective communication system and a response-ready team ensured a highly successful outcome.
Surf Lifesaving Central Coast, NSW
On 15 of September 2018 a multi-agency response including police, volunteer rescue and the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter was carried out by Sean Leicester (SLSCC) and Brianna Coyte (Toowoon Bay SLSC) on a Rescue Water Craft (RWC) and Anthony Smith and Gavin Brown (The Lakes SLSC) in an IRB. They were successfully able to rescue two teenagers trapped in a cave at Snapper Point, notorious for multiple drownings. The teens had been part of a group who had been jumping from the rocks when rough sea conditions set in. The rescue agencies decided against a vertical extraction and surf lifesavers were tasked to assist. Whilst extremely challenging, Brianna was dropped off at the entrance of the cave and swam in to assist a shaken and shocked female patient assisting her to swim out safely to the RWC. Brianna then returned to the cave, rescuing the male in the same way. Both patients were transferred to the IRB and taken to Fraser Park Beach, unharmed with no injuries.