A MAN and a woman are lucky to be alive after being dragged out to sea off Port Macquarie’s Town Beach on Wednesday (February 7).
The duo were rescued from the Hastings River entrance after being caught in a rip. The tourists took to the beach just before 8am for an early morning swim beside the southern rock wall.
Flags had not yet been erected on the beach but fortunately for the swimmers, lifeguards had gathered for an early morning training session with UAV drones.
Members of the Australian Lifeguard Service, assisted by UAV pilots from the Little Ripper Lifesaver, responded to the incident with the assistance of a local surfer.
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, wrapped 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 operational support and assisted in ensuring there were no further swimmers in the water in difficulty.
Head lifeguard James Turnham said once safe on shore, the patients were very thankful to those involved including the surfer, and were advised of the dangerous area and just how lucky they were.
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,” James Turnham said.
The area is notorious for strong currents, dumping waves, a permanent rip and other unpredictable conditions.