Volunteers from Port Stephens have been awarded the 2015 Australian Search and Rescue Award for their bravery and seamanship during a rescue of two people from a yacht in cyclonic weather conditions.
On April 21 2015, Marine Rescue Port Stephens Skipper Michael Smith, and his crew – Rob Johnson, Richard Pizzuto, Barney Pinney, Laurie Nolan, Barbara Cole, Peter Merlino and Paul Sullivan – responded to a Mayday call from a yacht, Reef Dragon. The crew, based in Nelson Bay, were tasked to Fame Cove, battling extreme weather conditions, with winds in excess of 78 knots and three to four metre swells to reach the stricken yacht. The two people of board the Reef Dragon reported the yacht was dragging its mooring towards nearby rocks and was beginning to break up, and they were preparing to abandon the vessel.
On arrival at Fame Cove, the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) crew launched its inflatable y-boat with two crew members on board, completing the rescue just before the yacht was lost. After two and a half gruelling hours, the survivors were recovered to the VMR Base at Nelson Bay.
The 2014 winners were the crew of Tasmania Police Vessel Van Dieman (Y2), officers Inspector Lee Renshaw, Sergeant John Pratt, Senior Constable Darren Leary, Constable Robert Round and Tasmania Police Search Controller during the incident, Constable Ben Cunningham. These officers were recognised for their efforts in the rescue of three fishermen off the south West Cape of Tasmania on 3 January 2014 in extreme weather conditions. The Van Diemen battled heavy seas of up to 12 metres and winds of more than 100km/h for several hours before coming within sight of the vessel. The fisherman, who were forced to enter the water, were successfully rescued minutes before they would have been swept onto rocks on nearby Walker Island.
A commendation was also awarded to the four member crew of Navy Seahawk “Tiger 74”. Lieutenant Commander David O’Toole, Lieutenant Philip Rhodes, Petty Officer Colin McCallum and Leading Seaman Blake Woolard were recognised for their role in the rescue of two sailors after their yacht sank off the New South Wales coast on 29 September 2013. The Seahawk crew conducted a night rescue under challenging environmental conditions while overcoming a number of technical and operational challenging, which culminated in the saving of two lives. Lieutenant Commander David O’Toole accepted the award on behalf of the crew.
The 2013 winners were Lorne police officer Sergeant David Cooper and Melbourne man Nicholas Costello. These men were recognised for their heroism in rescuing a 12 year old boy after he was swept out to sea at St George River, near Lorne, on 9 March, 2013.
Three crew members of the Victorian Police helicopter were also commended at the awards for their role in rescuing a Russian solo sailor in rough seas approximately 110 nautical miles south east of Mallacoota. Victorian Police Pilot Constable Peter Dillon and Tactical Flight Officers Leading Senior Constables Mark Weekly and Brad Pascoe were involved in winching the man from his stricken vessel and saving his life on 19 April. They were nominated by their Victorian Police colleagues and AMSA.
Emergency Services Commissioner for Victoria, Mr Michael Hallowes, joined members of the National Search and Rescue (SAR) Council joined members of the National Search and Rescue Council in Victoria for the Annual Dinner on Wednesday 17 October.
The award was presented to the four member crew of Trybooking.com, at the dinner hosted by Victoria Police. The Australian SAR Award recognises their outstanding contribution to search and rescue for successfully recovering six survivors from the yacht Inception, which sank in treacherous sea conditions during the 2012 Queenscliff to Port Fairy Race in April 2012.
Describing the men’s actions, Mr Hallowes noted, "these men epitomise the great Australian sense of mateship, coming to the aid of others in the time of dire need."
This sentiment was echoed by Mr Craig Longmuir of the Rescue Coordination Centre Australia, who nominated the crew. "In six to ten metre seas and with selfless act of strength and bravery they successfully managed to rescue the survivors from the water at great personal risk." Mr Longmuir emphasised, "I have no doubt their actions saved the lives of the crew of Inception."
The Governor of South Australia, His Excellency, Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce AC CSC RANR, joined members of the National Search and Rescue (SAR) Council in Adelaide to present the 2011 Australian SAR Award.
The award was presented to Wayne McDermott, Tyrone Becker and Lincoln Wilson, at a dinner hosted by South Australia Police. The award recognises their outstanding contribution to search and rescue in rescuing Clifford Thurley and his son-in-law Michael Veale from the sea near Strahan, Tasmania on 14 June 2011.
Describing the men’s actions, Rear Admiral Scarce commended “not only their actions in performing the rescue but also in supporting the survivors until they were returned to a place of safety. This level of concern epitomises the best in the Australian character and in human nature.”
For their life-saving assistance to the Scullin family in August 2009, David Dodge and Bob Kent were selected as the recipients of the 2010 Australian SAR Award. David Dodge is a member of the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia and Bob Kent is the owner-operator of Esperance's Helitours. Bob and David were sent to the aid of a father and son who were in distress following the sinking of their boat off the coast of Esperance, WA.
The 2010 Award was presented by Deputy Commissioner Shayne Maines of the Northern Territory Police Fire and Emergency Services in Darwin, 14 October 2010.
The 2009 Australian Search and Rescue Award was presented at Rottnest Island on Thursday 12 November to Richard and Rae Thorp of Capel, Western Australia. The Thorps have been running the Australian Citizen Radio Monitors Base from their home for 22 years.
This is a totally self funded volunteer operation with no government support. The home base monitors 27 MHz and Marine VHF radios which covers an extensive and busy part of the south western corner of WA. Over 700 vessels are registered to the ACRM system and the Thorps work closely with Fremantle Water Police to provide alerts in case of distress.
The Council elected not to present an Award in 2008 however a Certificate of Commendation was presented to Constable Frank Raab of the Fremantle Water Police for his service to the Australian Search and Rescue System.
The 2007 award has been made to the Tasmania Police Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service for their involvement in over 700 incidents since beginning operations and in particular, was involved in the rescue of a Japanese solo sailor from a yacht some 120 nms SW of Tasmania in very poor weather and challenging sea conditions. In response Mr Corbin thanked the Council for the Award. He noted that the award is for the whole of the team involved in the Rotor Lift company and for all those involved in the helicopter rescue service.
Mr Michael Stringer, a long-standing member of the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol (RVCP) received the 2007 Award for his continued and outstanding commitemt to search and rescue in the Australian region. With over 33 years experience with the RVCP, Michael is a highly skilled coxswain of the Coastal Patrol's 52 foot ARUN class and 44 foot WAVENEY class lifeboats operated from Syndey Harbour. During this time Michael has been involved in over 860 rescue missions, many of them in extremely dangerous conditions.
Mr Chris Gillett, National Commodore, Australian Volunteer Coast Guard and Mrs Margie Mason, radio operator with the RVCP at Port Victoria, SA were commended by the National SAR Coucil for their dedicated service to search and rescue in the Australian region.
Dr Paul Luckin received the 2006 Award for the provision of professional advice to SAR authorities on survivability over the past 30 years. Decisions in many incidents have been influenced by the advice provided by Dr Luckin, the most notable being the search for the Columbian businessman lost on Moreton Island, QLD in May 2005. Dr Luckin’s advice was optimal. Ricardo Sirutis was found barely alive by searchers on the tenth day of the search. Without the supporting opinions of the survivability of the missing person given by Dr Luckin, there is every probability that the search effort would have been reduced, which may have resulted in a less than optimal outcome for both the missing person and the QPS alike.
The crew and support staff of the Hunter Region SLSA Helicopter Rescue Service were commended by the National SAR Council for their outstanding support of the NSW Police and federal SAR authorities over the past 30 years.
Mr Barry McCann and the members of the Tasmanian Smallcraft Marine Radio Group (TSMRG) received the Australian Search and Rescue Award for 2004. Barry McCann was a co-founder of the TSMRG in 1976 and has been continuously involved in the group since that time. He is now a director of the Group. The TSMRG, operating as TASMAR Radio, was the only existing radio station to be chosen by the Australian Maritime Group to be part of the new National Coast Radio Network. TASMAR moved into the Hobart Radio site at Bruny Island and took on the callsign of Coast Radio Hobart. They are now engaged in training more volunteer operators so that the Hobart Radio site can become the permanent home of Coast Radio Hobart.
A number of other nominees for the 2004 Award were honoured with certificates of commendation. They were QF17 Tin Can Bay AVCG unit; Mr Ron Melton the Manager of Volunteer Marine Rescue Services in the Queensland Department of Emergency Services; Senior Constable Lewis Hynd, Western Australia Police Service; and Sergeant James Whitehead, Queensland Police Service.
The award was not presented in 2003.
The award was not presented in 2002.
Superintendent Gordon Wellings (rtd) of the NSW Police Service was presented with the Australian Search and Rescue Award for 2001 for his tireless commitment to search and rescue throughout his career with the NSW Water Police and in particular for his efforts as a longstanding member of the National Search and Rescue Council.
The crews of Helimed 1, an aeromedical helicopter operating from the Latrobe Valley in Victoria were unanimously selected to receive the Australian Search and Rescue Award in 2000 for their longstanding service to search and rescue in the New South Wales/Victorian/Tasmanian area of Australia and the waters therein for the past eleven years. The Governor General, Sir William Dean presented the award to a selected crew of Helimed 1. Mr Richard Winning, the skipper of the yacht Winston Churchill that was lost during the ill-fated Sydney to Hobart yacht race in 1998 attended the award ceremony at Government House. The Helimed 1 crew receiving the award rescued, amongst others, the survivors of the Winston Churchill, including Mr Winning.
Mr Ron O'Connor, a radio operator with the Solander Division of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association was presented with the Australian Search and Rescue Award for 1999 for the commitment he had displayed over the past twenty-two years in both boat work and out of hours radio watchkeeping. Senior Constables Bryant and Long were presented with letters of commendation for their rescue of seven members of the Port Macquarie Sea Rescue Group. The Sea Rescue members were thrown into the water following the capsizing of their boats on the bar at the entrance of the Hastings River, Port Macquarie during a late night rescue operation.
The New South Wales Police Service was the successful nominee for the Australian Search and Rescue Award for 1998 for the coordination of the Thredbo land slide incident. The three police members most involved in the coordination of the rescue effort, Chief Superintendent Johnston, Superintendent Sanderson and Inspector Garry Smith accepted the award from the NSW Police Minister on behalf of the NSW Police Service. Inspector Maurice Massie (rtd) from the Tasmanian Police Service was awarded a letter of Commendation for his commitment to search and rescue throughout his illustrious career in policing in Tasmania. He was one of the founding members of the National Search and Rescue Council.
Mr Pete Goss from the United Kingdom for his spectacular rescue of fellow competitor, Raphael Dinelli in the Southern Ocean during the Vendee Round the World Yacht Race in 1996. The selection committee felt that Mr Goss' efforts went far beyond bravery in that he not only planned and executed a successful search and rescue for Mr Dinelli, but he also then saw to Mr Dinelli's recovery during the trip to Hobart where Mr Dinelli was put ashore. Steven and Barbara Karadin of the Bar Point Base of the Rescue and Radio Communication Club on the Hawkesbury were awarded a certificate of commendation for their commitment to search and rescue in the same year.