A male and female were rescued from the Hastings River entrance on Wednesday morning after being caught in a rip at Port Macquarie’s Town Beach. The tourists took to the beach just before 8am for an early morning swim beside the notorious southern rock wall.
Members of the Australian Lifeguard Service, assisted by UAV pilots from the Little Ripper Lifesaver, responded to the incident approximately 1 hour prior to the flags being raised. Fortunately for the tourists, off-duty Lifeguards were on-site and able to respond due to an early morning training session in the use of the UAVs.
While setting up for the session in the watch tower, Lifeguard Angus Knox witnessed two swimmers struggling against the rock wall, being swept out in the permanent rip towards the tip of the wall. Along with fellow lifeguards Blake Polverino, Lachlan Hawkins and head lifeguard James Turnham, he rushed to the wall to rescue the swimmers. A local who was surfing nearby at the time, had reached the two swimmers and was keeping their heads above the water and reassuring the patients as the lifeguards made their way out.
”I grabbed fins and got down the end of the beach as quick as possible. I swam out, got a rescue tube around one of them who was grabbing onto the man’s surfboard. Once the rescue board arrived we were able to paddle the two back around to the beach, into the wave zone and onto the sand bank,” said lifeguard Angus Knox. UAV pilots provided a close watch overhead throughout the incident.
Head Lifeguard James Turnham said that, “Once safe on shore, the patients who spoke very minimal English, were very thankful to those involved including the surfer, and were advised of the dangerous area.”
Lifeguards and lifesavers warn that swimming out of patrol hours brings many risks, and usually assistance would be some time away. Luckily in this instance, a surfer and off-duty lifeguards were nearby.
“This could easily have been a very unfortunate situation. This is where the majority of our rescues in the Port Macquarie-Hastings region occur, and has been the location of multiple fatalities in the past,” said James Turnham.
The area is notorious for strong currents, dumping waves, a permanent rip and other unpredictable conditions.