Rescuers after some respect
A RESCUE that turned ugly has prompted a senior surf lifesaver to call for “reason and respect” from people who venture out into the water.
Last Sunday morning, volunteers from the Byron Bay Surf Life Saving Club were put in danger when a man they were trying to rescue became violent and had to be restrained while they were in rough seas two nautical miles off Cape Byron.
While the episode was an extreme case, it highlighted the difficulties lifesavers sometimes faced, but shouldn't have to, said Jimmy Keough, Surf Life Saving emergency co-ordinator for the Far North Coast.
At other times, lifesavers on the North Rivers had to deal with people who were affected by alcohol or drugs and who chose to go swimming, Mr Keough said.
Lifesavers responding to emergency calls, sometimes at night, were put at risk in such circumstances and it was a big ask for volunteers to have to face, he said.
It also used valuable resources that could be needed elsewhere, he said.
On Sunday, a man entered the water at Little Wategos fully clothed. He swam away from the beach and was quickly swept out to sea. Several calls were made from concerned onlookers at the beach and at the Byron lookout.
Experienced lifesaver Kurt Tutt went out on a jet ski to help the man, who was now naked and became “very violent”.
Mr Tutt believed the man was either affected by drugs or had mental health issues. He remained with the man for 40 minutes and called for back-up, while the Westpac Rescue Helicopter hovered above.
Two women volunteers, one aged 17, came out on the inflatable boat to help. There was further struggling before the man was dragged into the boat and “sat upon” by the 110kg Mr Tutt for the journey back to dry land.
Once on shore he was sedated by ambulance staff and handcuffed by police before being taken to hospital.
Insp Greg Powell, of the Brunswick Valley Zone Ambulance Service, said the lifesavers had “done a particularly good job in an arduous situation”.
He said ambulance officers were trained to deal with such patients, but the lifesavers had to use their own common sense.
Mr Keough said such incidents were disheartening.
“We're a community organisation and very happy to carry out rescues,” he said.
“A fatality was avoided on Sunday, but it's hard enough to retain volunteers without this sort of thing happening.”