‘It was a pretty miserable day, the beach was closed so we had no flags up and we weren’t really expecting much to happen’, patrol captain, Karen Sheppard said. Then a group of fifteen ocean swimmers were spotted heading towards the water. As they approached, they were advised by the lifesavers not to enter as the beach was closed because of the rough conditions which included a 2-3 metre swell. But, despite the warning, the swimmers entered the surf.
Soon afterwards, when they were 50 metres off the shore, the swimmers found themselves in trouble with a number of them being washed against the rocks by the heavy seas. Immediately, patrol captains Karen Sheppard and Simon King launched a rescue effort. Despite the conditions, a team of lifesavers headed out. Gary Pendergast headed out to assist a swimmer who had been washed onto the rocks, Patrick Kerr and Matthew Brown went to assist on a rescue board, David Tinworth and Jake Hilton went out in an IRB (inflatable rescue boat), and John Rohl and Lisa Croudace swam out with rescue tubes. Once on scene, Patrick supported two swimmers on his board until Matthew arrived and was able to transfer one of the exhausted swimmers onto Matthew’s board so that he could paddle the swimmer back to shore. Due to the severe conditions, Patrick transferred the remaining swimmer into the IRB to be taken back to shore by Dave and Jake.
In the meantime, Lisa had directed the remaining struggling swimmers back to shore.
While she was helping the group one of the swimmers attempted to swim against the rip. Lisa offered her rescue tube to the swimmer but the swimmer refused to take it. John arrived to the group with fins a few minutes later and helped the swimmer negotiate his way through the large swell safely to shore.
All fifteen swimmers were returned to shore and administered first aid. Several of the swimmers suffered serious injuries from being washed against the rocks. All have since made full recoveries.
The challenging conditions and the difficulty of the rescue highlighted the teamwork and skill shown by the North Bondi surf lifesavers, both on the beach and in the water. The team will be presented with their National Award at the next Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving event.
Thanks to Surf Lifesaving Australia for this story.
My comment: the lessons from this event about the folly of venturing into dangerous waters are obvious as are those about never swimming against a rip and not obeying directions of lifesavers. Lifesavers are there to provide advice and, if necessary, conduct rescues often risking their own safety in doing so.