An outdoor adventure guide and a group of students and schoolteachers he was leading were rescued in remote Kataway Bay on Sunday, October 25 after the guide suffered what is suspected to have been a heart attack.
The successful rescue mission - which earlier had to be aborted by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter - was made possible with co-ordinated efforts of Surf Life Saving (SLS) and other emergency service agencies and the fact that the guide had a personal emergency beacon (EPIRB) with him.
At approximately 4.15pm the newly opened SLS State Operations Centre was advised by police they had received a call to triple-0 requesting assistance for a man suffering a suspected heart attack in the remote Kataway Bay area of Myall Lakes.
Kataway Bay is not easily accessible by land or air, so NSW Police requested assistance from SLS to access the man by water.
The Pacific Palms Surf Life Saving Club emergency callout team was activated and husband and wife team of Jerrad and Jeanette Allen immediately towed an inflatable rescue boat (IRB) to the Neranie Boat Ramp near Seal Rocks, the closest launch point to the suspected location of the guide and school group.
They were the first to arrive at the location and were soon joined by police and ambulance teams.
I want to congratulate the Pacific Palms SLSC callout team for their fast, professional response in challenging conditions.- Joel Wiseman
Conditions at the time were not favourable with high winds, fog and rain squalls hampering attempts to locate the Blue Mountains Grammar School group who had been kayaking on Myall Lakes as part of an outdoor adventure camp.
Thankfully, the group's guide had taken a personal emergency locator beacon (EPIRB) with him and activated it. The group's location was immediately identified by emergency services and relayed from the SLSNSW State Operations Centre via radio to the Pacific Palms search and rescue team in the IRB who had been searching for the group in an area nearby.
The callout team located the school group and treated their 50-year old guide, who was suffering from severe chest pain.
He was stabilised, wrapped in a space blanket for warmth and transported conscious and breathing back to the Neranie Boat Ramp, some 15 minutes away, where ambulance paramedics were waiting to provide treatment.
The man was later transported to Manning Base Hospital in a stable condition.
Meanwhile, the group of school children, their teachers and their kayaks were transported from Kataway Bay back to Neranie Boat Ramp by the Pacific Palms IRB and a State Emergency Service (SES) boat.
It was dark by this stage and the boats and kayaks were joined in a chain behind the SES boat which had navigation lights and was certified for night operations.
Pacific Palms SLSC duty officer, Dave Ellis, said the biggest challenges the search and rescue team faced was the remote location, the weather and the intermittent communications.
"One hundred per cent the EPIRB was useful," Mr Ellis said.
"If you're going to remote locations with just a mobile phone you are in trouble from the start.
"Thankfully, the school's outdoor guide was a professional.
"It shows you the importance of a personal EPIRB.
"Some people say Myall Lakes is not remote but if you are more than 15 minutes away from help, you are by definition remote.
"They did the right thing and stayed together.
"They also had the right equipment and thankfully everyone went home and that's the best outcome we can hope for as an emergency service."
SLS lifesaving director, Joel Wiseman, said the successful rescue of the school group and their guide was a great example of a well co-ordinated, multi-agency response.
"I want to congratulate the Pacific Palms SLSC callout team for their fast, professional response in challenging conditions," Mr Wiseman said.
"It is testament to their training and their preparedness that there was a positive outcome."
SLS also acknowledged the efforts of the Pacific Palms call-out team, Jannette and Jerrad Allen, Janne and Tony Moran, Dave and Michelle Ellis and Kel McCredie and congratulate them on their part in the successful search and rescue operation.
Sunday's severe weather conditions forced the cancellation of a rescue mission being undertaken by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.
Just before 4.30pm on Sunday the helicopter, with the critical care medical team on board, was called to assist a kayaker who was suffering a possible medical episode in an isolated area of the Myall Lakes.
A group of kayakers had made their way to shore to raise the alarm.
However, the group was believed to be in a area that wasn't accessible by vehicle.
The helicopter with the critical care medical team on board was unable to get to the isolated location due to the severe weather conditions that the East Coast was experiencing and had to abort and return to base, a spokesperson said.
It is believed an attempt was made to reach the patient by a SES vessel.
No further information was made available.
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