‘Old-school rescue’ wins Bulli lifesavers state award

Bulli SLSC members Stuart Brown, Kiah Taylor, Morgan Richards and Dean Dudley. The crew won the NSW Rescue of the Month award for saving swimmers dragged 100 metres out to sea in December. Picture: Robert Peet

Bulli SLSC members Stuart Brown, Kiah Taylor, Morgan Richards and Dean Dudley. The crew won the NSW Rescue of the Month award for saving swimmers dragged 100 metres out to sea in December. Picture: Robert Peet

The courageous actions of Bulli surf lifesavers, who rescued six swimmers dragged 100 metres out to sea last month, have been acknowledged with a state award.

A Bulli Surf Life Saving Club patrol team leapt into action when a large wave barrelled through the middle of the flagged area at Bulli beach on December 6 – a day multiple strong currents and a two-to-three-metre swell wreaked havoc. 

The large wave, spotted by 18-year-old lifesaver Kiah Taylor, pushed six men in their mid-to-late 20s north into a rip. 

What followed was an “old-school rescue” involving eight volunteers, including a handful of teenagers fresh from completing their surf rescue certificate.

“We had 100 swimmers [between the flags] and they all got scattered,” patrol member Dean Dudley said.

“We knew if we … could keep them [the six men] above the water the support would come – and it did, the whole team just clicked.”

The response was named Surf Life Saving NSW’s Rescue of the Month.

HOW THE RESCUE UNFOLDED

Lifesaver Kiah Taylor noticed the large wave sweep through and drag the swimmers out into deeper water about 1.30pm on Sunday, December 6.

It soon became apparent that they were in some difficulty.

Dean Dudley was nearby and ran to the northern flag, grabbed a rescue tube and entered the water with Kiah following on a rescue board.

“All of this happened so quickly, the patrol saw me enter the water and they all followed. The teamwork shown by the patrol was amazing, we had three boards in the water - two were rescue boards and Morgan had my personal board,” Dean said.

Not too far behind and also on rescue boards were Morgan Richards and Kaimana Fittock who had paddled out to help the swimmers.

Kiah attempted to rescue the most distressed swimmer but was hampered by the man resisting her efforts in his panic to stay afloat.

Dean swam over and swapped rescue equipment with Kiah but he too faced difficulties calming the swimmer before eventually managing to get him to shore with the assistance of Stuart Brown.

Kaimana had her board overturned as she was trying to retrieve three of the struggling swimmers, but fortunately she was assisted by Zara Sharman who swam out to assist.

Kaimana and Zara worked together to return three males to shore. Graham Bilton entered the water without any equipment and headed towards the remaining two swimmers in distress.

“It was a matter of necessity that Zara and Graham entered the water without any equipment. In Graham’s case, he didn’t have access to any equipment so what he did was particularly important and Zara acted on her instincts and provided invaluable assistance,” Dean said.

Morgan Richards had retrieved one of the remaining swimmers on her board and directed Graham to the final swimmer while Kiah followed.

Graham arrived first and calmed the swimmer down so that Kiah could secure a rescue tube to the man and bring him to shore through the large swell.

Meanwhile, Dean was continuing to return his swimmer to shore when a two-metre wave broke on them pushing the male down the wave, where he was within reach of Stuart Brown.

Daniel St George arrived on scene in the IRB and did a sweep of the area to ensure there were no swimmers still struggling and remained in the water until all six swimmers were safely on shore.

“This was an old-school, old-fashioned rescue and we did whatever we could to bring the six swimmers to shore. In hindsight I would’ve launched the IRB sooner but it all happened so quickly and the first instinct was to get out there and keep the swimmers above water and wait for help to arrive, which it did,” Dean said.

Source: Surf Life Saving NSW

SAVIOURS: Bulli SLSC members Stuart Brown, Kiah Taylor, Morgan Richards and Dean Dudley. The crew won the NSW Rescue of the Month award for saving swimmers dragged 100 metres out to sea in December. Picture: Robert Peet

SAVIOURS: Bulli SLSC members Stuart Brown, Kiah Taylor, Morgan Richards and Dean Dudley. The crew won the NSW Rescue of the Month award for saving swimmers dragged 100 metres out to sea in December. Picture: Robert Peet

WHAT IS THE RESCUE OF THE MONTH AWARD?

The Surf Life Saving NSW (SLSNSW) Rescue of the Month recognises 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.

Source: Surf Life Saving NSW

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