The Pambula Surf Life Saving Club has spoken to Fairfax Media about its involvement in Wednesday night’s search efforts at Disaster Bay, south of Eden.
Approximately 6.50pm on Wednesday, January 11, Pambula SLSC was informed of a report of a 'missing swimmer' at Disaster Bay south of Eden. The call had been relayed to Surf Life Saving NSW (Surfcom) via a triple zero call to police.
Surf Life Saving FSC southern duty officer Don Hay said the club was asked to put call-out crews on standby while inquiries were made to confirm concise details of the location and number of people involved.
The Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter (Lifesaver 23) based at Moruya was tasked to commence search and rescue operations while remaining daylight permitted.
Communications between Pambula SLSC, Sydney Water Police, NSW Police and Surfcom established that the 000 call had come from Wonboyn Lake Resort.
Upon further investigation it was established the location of the incident was the Wonboyn Rivermouth and that unconfimed reports were that two men had been in a kayak that was swept out in a current. However, they were found safely back on land.
Acting sergeant with Eden Water Police Michael Burgess said the two men, aged 18 and 20, had managed to get back to shore without emergency service assistance, but were found in a different location to where they had left.
Lifesaver 23 arrived on scene and conducted an initial search before being stood down by 8.30pm after the men’s safety was confirmed by their mother who made contact with authorities.
“The mother did the right thing by contacting police as soon as she could because this allowed us time to get things in place before dark,” Mr Burgess said.
“Time is always critical with missing persons operations in the ocean.
“The downside to where they were – down at Wonboyn – is that there aren’t many assets in that area meaning we are unable to respond in a short period of time. As we were on call at the time it would take us a minimum of an hour to get to the office, grab what was needed and then get from Eden to Wonboyn.”
Mr Burgess said that in this instance, where time is of the essence, it was quicker for the helicopter from Moruya to get to Wonboyn than it would have been for the Eden Water Police.
Mr Hay echoed Mr Burgess’ comments, saying people should never hesitate to contact emergency services or lifesavers when they are worried about someone in the surf.
"She was obviously very concerned about her boys’ welfare and very grateful for the efforts of emergency personnel during the incident," Mr Hay said.
Chief executive officer of Westpac Life Saver Rescue helicopters Stephen Leahy said an extensive search was conducted, but the remoteness and difficulty in accessing the location made for a difficult operation that lasted for almost two hours.
“The alarm was raised by the mother of the boys who contacted a local fisherman who raised the alarm at the Wonboyn Caravan Park,” Mr Leahy said.
“The fisherman then commandeered a vessel and responded to the site where he found an empty canoe while rescue crews were en-route.”
Due to the darkness and windy conditions on the Far South Coast the crew of the helicopter decided to fly to Merimbula Airport where they stayed the night before returning to their base at Moruya Airport early Thursday morning.