26 January 2024

Life savers urge swimmers to stay between the flags after 12 rescued from Wollongong beaches

| Zoe Cartwright
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Emergency services at Austinmer after eight people were rescued from a powerful rip current on 26 January. Photo: Anthony turner Surf Life Saving NSW.

Surf Life Savers rescued 12 people in two hours from unpatrolled locations in the Illawarra on Australia Day, and are urging people to swim between the flags this long weekend.

Surf Life Saving Illawarra duty officer said the first two rescues were at Austinmer beach, within minutes of each other.

“At 8 am seven teenagers from Western Sydney were pulled from the water by members of the public and an off-duty lifesaver, exhausted after they got stuck in a rip,” he said.

“Two of them required NSW Ambulance assistance because they had swallowed water, before they were released to their family members.

“Shortly before that, a man was caught in a rip current at the northern end of the beach and pulled out by a member of the public. He was also assessed by NSW paramedics.

“About 10:30 am at the northern side of the Woonona rock pool four people got into distress in the water.

“They were helped by members of the public until a surf life saver could paddle out and keep them afloat on a rescue board while other surf life savers brought a jetski out and were able to take them to shore.

“It could have been a real tragedy, and it takes time for surf life savers to respond to incidents at unpatrolled locations.

“We do everything we can to keep the public safe – please play your part by swimming between the flags.”

READ ALSO Temperatures set to drop over long weekend, double demerits in place

It’s been a busy start to the long weekend for all emergency services, with a Marine Rescue crew sent to help a boat that had activated its emergency beacon off the Illawarra coast on Thursday, 25 January.

The volunteer crew on board vessel Botany Hacking 30 was sent to help the three people on the struggling boat by NSW Police Marine Area Command shortly after 7 pm.

Marine Rescue NSW Inspector Courtney Greenslade said a five-to-six metre centre console boat reported it was sinking about half-a-nautical mile (1km) east of the Sea Cliff Bridge at Stanwell Park.

“The BH 30 crew with the support of radio operators from the Marine Rescue Sydney State Communications Centre headed to the location in fading light to provide assistance,” he said.

“Our rescue vessel was closing in on the distressed boat but it thankfully made its way to Bellambi boat ramp unaided.

“The movement of the distressed vessel slowed the intake of water allowing it to get back to shore.

“If the situation deteriorated our volunteer crew was well positioned to assist the three people on board the distressed vessel.”

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