Pacific Palms lifesavers awarded NSW Rescue of the Month

SIX lifesavers from Pacific Palms SLSC have been awarded the Surf Life Saving NSW Rescue of the month for May/June for the joint response resulting in the rescue of a rock fisherman near Seal Rocks.

On Wednesday May 7, 2014 at around 12.30pm, Julie Wilcox received a call from the State Operations Centre that an unknown number of fishermen had been washed into the water at Seal Rocks.

Julie contacted the Pacific Palms SLSC callout team and lifesaver Lennon Fisher, who was at Smiths Lake, advised he could respond. In the meantime, Julie also tasked John Gray and Brian Wilcox (on scene duty officers) and organised Kel McCredie as backup. Fisher met Gray at Boat Beach and launched the RWC. Gray remained on the beach as back up while Fisher proceeded to the last known location of the fishermen.

The sea was extremely rough because of the wind and the temperature was very cool which made the search difficult for lifesavers. After searching for a while, Fisher noticed a fisherman on the rocks frantically calling for attention to another man who was clinging to the rocks, too exhausted to move. The only way for Fisher to get him onto the RWC was to enter the water himself, push the man onto the sled of the RWC, and then remount himself without tipping the RWC.

Whilst Fisher was rescuing the patient, The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter was called in to winch the man who was stuck on the rocks to safety then search from the air for the other fisherman.

After battling the rough conditions, Fisher returned the patient who was hypothermic, in shock, cramping and covered with cuts and bruises to Boat Beach, where Gray cared for him until an ambulance arrived on scene. Club president Kel McCredie and Brian Wilcox (LNC duty officer) arrived with warm clothing for Fisher and the patient. Along with the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter, Fisher went back out in the rough conditions on the RWC to continue the search for another fisherman, last seen floating face down off the rocks. Unfortunately the man was not located with the police calling off the search at dusk.

The search resumed at 8am the next morning with Brian Wilcox and Ben Atkinson (duty officers) continuing the search working with Marine Area Command, Marine Rescue, Waterways, and Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter. Search area was established from Seal Rocks to Cape Hawke and six nautical miles seaward. The person could not be located.

There is no doubt that the actions of the lifesaving team, particularly those of Fisher, resulted in saving the life of one fisherman. Unfortunately the other fisherman was never found and appears to have perished in dangerous conditions.

The National and SLSNSW Rescue of the Month aims to recognise excellence in lifesaving. Each month a 'Rescue of the Month' is awarded at State level for the most outstanding rescue performance for that period. Monthly winners have the chance to win the Australian Rescue of the Month and become finalists for the SLSNSW Rescue of the Year which is presented at the annual Awards of Excellence.