Courtesy of Narooma News Online
A 19-YEAR-old Tathra man is lucky to be alive after treading water for almost an hour before being rescued by brave surf lifesavers on Sunday afternoon.
The man was fishing with two other 18 year old men from Tathra at Wapengo Lagoon south of Bermagui, when their boat overturned crossing the bar at Bithery Inlet at around 1.40pm.
Two of the men made it to shore on their own, but the third man remained unaccounted for and rescuers held grave fears for his wellbeing as none of the men had lifejackets or flotation devices.
Tathra surf lifesaver Tony Rettke and his 16-year-old son Jordan responded to the scene by car and immediately raced into the messy two metre surf with just rescue tubes searching for the missing man.
Fellow club member Maree Bolton was on the scene with resuscitation equipment and surveyed the area from land while Scott Meaker and Geoff Bolton responded from Tathra Surf Club in an inflatable rescue boat (IRB).
Lifesavers searched for the man for around 30 minutes. Eventually they heard his cries for help in the vicinity of where Tony and Jordan were swimming. The man was rescued by the IRB before being transferred to the NSW Ambulance Rescue Helicopter at around 3.20pm.
He was taken to Bega hospital in a serious condition with severe hypothermia.
Far South Coast SLS Duty Officer Andrew Edmunds, commended the lifesavers’ actions.
“What we have seen today is an incredible selfless act of bravery by all members involved in the rescue, which quite remarkably averted tragedy.
“The odds were stacked against him, given the remoteness of the location, being more than 45 minutes from the nearest surf club compounded by the dangerous conditions and lack of flotation devices.
Interestingly a number of the people involved in today’s rescue were directly involved in the Tathra Wharf tragedy in 2009 and received meritorious awards then for their actions.
“It was dangerous, Dad and I just ran in and were swimming in the area where we thought the man may have drifted to,” rescuer Jordan Rettke said. “The swell was really smashing against the rocks and it was so difficult to see.”
The Far South Coast Surf Life Saving Branch will nominate the rescue for meritorious awards and the Surf Life Saving New South Wales Rescue of the Month.