Jet boat heroes win top lifesaving award
A DRAMATIC rescue in treacherous conditions on the Ballina bar in April has earned a prestigious award for the Ballina Jet Boat Rescue crew.
The crew - consisting of Mark Puglisi, Gary Murphy, Brad Heard, Garry Meredith, Simon Fogarty, Elton Cummings, Ross Trease and Ben Redman - won the Rescue of the Year category at the Surf Life Saving NSW Annual Awards of Excellence on Saturday night.
The jet boat crew was called in the early hours of April 15 after Marine Rescue Ballina's boat flipped while trying to rescue the crew of a motor cruiser on the bar.
The crews of the two overturned vessels were found and taken on board the jet boat.
But with the conditions still bad, the jet boat could not get back over the bar and, with members of the rescued crews showing signs of hypothermia, skipper Mark Puglisi made the call to run his boat ashore on Shelly Beach.
The Marine Rescue boat and the motor cruiser were later found washed up at South Ballina.
The crew's Garry Meredith said he was extremely proud of the team for winning the award.
"We did not expect to win the big one," he said.
"But it was well deserved and I think everyone was proud of how that situation was handled on the night.
"The skill of Mark (Puglisi) and his driving in conditions like that is just incredible.
"He's the best driver we've got."
Also at the awards night, Byron Bay Surf Life Saving Club's Ela Heiniger was named Country Athlete of the Year.