Sunshine Beach SLSC: Lachlan Lansdown, John Reeves, Brad Corby, Allison Johnstone, Steven Boyd
RWC: David James
At 4:15pm on Christmas Eve of 2017, a group of Queensland surf lifesavers and lifeguards conducted a mass rescue at Alexandria Bay, an unpatrolled beach within the Noosa National Park.
Sunshine Beach SLSC surf lifesavers Lachlan Lansdown and John Reeves were on a roving patrol to Alexandria Bay by SSV. The isolated stretch of coastline has no permanent lifesaving service, minimal communications capabilities outside Surf Life Saving Queensland’s (SLSQ) emergency beacons and takes roughly 10 minutes to access via SSV through a walking track.
Upon arrival the pair noticed a group of swimmers in significant distress, struggling to stay afloat. There were three swimmers beyond the break, one of whom appeared unconscious and a fourth swimmer closer in.
Lachlan grabbed a rescue board and headed beyond the break, leaving John to assist the closer swimmer back to shore with a rescue tube.
Fortuitously, SLSQ Lifesaving Service RWC operator David James was passing Alexandria Bay at the time. He saw Lachlan running into the water and immediately came to assist, picking up one of the panicking swimmers and dropping him back to shore on his craft.
Lachlan was able to get the second conscious swimmer onto his rescue board and launch him on a wave back to the beach. He then supported the unconscious patient in the water without any equipment and waited for the RWC to return. David returned, conveying Lachlan and the unconscious patient to the beach before returning offshore to ensure there was no one left in the water, and to call SurfCom for further assistance.
Lachlan pulled the unconscious patient up onto the beach, instructing John to activate the emergency beacon. The patient was not breathing or showing any signs of life, so Lachlan commenced CPR.
At this point the surf lifesavers were dealing with four patients: one receiving CPR, a second being semi-conscious and the other two severely exhausted after taking in water.
Due to the unreliable radio reception at Alexandria Bay, off-duty lifeguard and Sunshine Beach surf lifesaver Steven Boyd took a jet-ski from the club to the scene where he collected updates on the patients from the beach and proceeded back out of the bay until he had radio reception to relay the information to SurfCom.
Sunshine Beach SLSC surf lifesavers Brad Corby and Allison Johnstone, responding to the request for assistance, arrived in a second SSV. The unconscious patient started showing signs of life and Allison joined David, John and Lachlan, monitoring the four patients. Brad returned to Sunshine Beach in the SSV to collect the paramedics who were en route. The paramedics arrived on the scene and transported all four patients back to Sunshine Beach via SSV before taking them to hospital.
The surf lifesavers and lifeguards involved demonstrated vigilance, initiative, teamwork and bravery in a difficult and remote rescue environment. Each member of the team performed a vital role in ensuring the rescue was a success without loss of life.
The best way to avoid a rip is to swim between the red and yellow flags. When you see the red and yellow flags on a beach, it indicates there is currently a lifesaving service in operation. The surf lifesavers/lifeguards have picked a section of the beach best for swimming, and will closely supervise this area closely.