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News & Media

  • Injured couple safe after marathon late night rescue operation
  • May 26, 2016

An elderly couple who sustained injuries when their 16m cruiser was struck by large swells on the Clarence River bar has been brought safely to shore in a relay rescue operation stretching into the early hours of this morning.

The eight-hour operation, which finished at 1.30am, involved resources and crews from three Marine Rescue NSW units, the NSW Police Force Marine Area Command, the Ports Authority at Iluka-Yamba, NSW Ambulance and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

The cruiser was attempting to depart the Clarence River about 6pm yesterday when it was hit broadside twice. The two people on board were injured after being tossed around in the cabin.

A crew from Marine Rescue Iluka-Yamba immediately prepared to Iluka-Yamba 30 to provide assistance and the Ports Authority cutter was placed on standby. The Westpac Helicopter headed south from Lismore to provide aerial support, locating the cruiser and lighting up the bar.

The skipper of the cruiser, who had suffered a head injury, decided not to try to re-enter the river and headed south to anchor at North Solitary Island, off Wooli.

With the two vessels from Iluka-Yamba stood down, Marine Rescue vessel Woolgoolga 30 was deployed, with both MRNSW and Police Marine Area Command personnel on board, to meet the cruiser and transfer the boaters to shore for medical treatment.

MRNSW skipper and Mid North Coast Regional Controller John Murray threaded Woolgoolga 30 through the local islands and reefs to reach the vessel on the inside of North Solitary Island.

In difficult conditions with the prevailing strong winds and seas, the two Police officers, Sergeant Don Stewart and Senior Constable Josh Shaw, transferred to the cruiser to give immediate first aid and take control of the vessel.

A Police assessment indicated that in the testing conditions, it was prudent to continue on to Coffs Harbour, where the cruiser’s passengers could be easily taken ashore for medical attention.

Further south again, a crew from Marine Rescue Coffs Harbour was deployed on board Coffs 30 to meet the cruiser north of Split Solitary Island and provide a safety escort into Coffs Harbour.

After a 60 nautical mile journey, the cruiser was assisted to a berth at the public wharf in the Coffs Marina about 1.30am, with waiting paramedics assessing the injured couple before transporting them to hospital for treatment.

Vital communications support for the operation was provided by Barry Storey and Ross Minchin at the MRNSW Iluka-Yamba Search and Rescue Coordination Centre, before it was handed over to radio operator John Lang at the Coffs Harbour SARCC.

Marine Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Dean Storey praised the skill and commitment of all personnel involved in the marathon operation in the dark and difficult conditions.

“The conditions yesterday were very poor in the region with a strong wind warning for the Coffs Coast and a large swell offshore,” he said.

“The cooperation and coordination between the MRNSW and Police crews in particular is a testament to the enormous value of the joint search and rescue training exercises we regularly undertake along the NSW coastline.”

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