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Rescuers drown after boat flips in surf off Victoria’s Great Ocean Road

Rescuers drown after boat flips in surf off Victoria’s Great Ocean Road
April 21, 2019

Two volunteer surf life saving rescuers, believed to be father and son, have died off Victoria’s southern coast while rescuing a tourist in treacherous swells.

A 30-year-old male tourist was wading at the mouth of the Sherbrook River when he got into difficulty about 10.40am today (21st April). A rescue boat was deployed to help the man but the boat flipped in the surf, throwing the three rescuers into the ocean.

Two of the rescuers, men aged 32 and 71, died. The third rescuer and the tourist were both winched to the hospital via an emergency helicopter.

The surviving rescuer has serious injuries, while the tourist is in a stable condition.

In a statement on the incident, Life Saving Victoria President, Paul James, said the rescuers were “highly experienced and long-serving members of the Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club”.

James advised that “they ventured out as a group of three rescuers in a six-metre rigid hull inflatable boat. For whatever reason, that boat’s gotten into difficulty.

“(The water was) very dangerous. I understand the boat was operating in a two-metre swell - a very high swell - and we know it is very treacherous down there and not a place to be swimming at all.

“These brave people, these heroes, have gone out to try to help.”

James’ statement added “on behalf of Life Saving Victoria, I would like to pass on to our members the tragic news of the drowning of two of our highly-experienced and respected volunteer members today. They were long-standing members of the Port Campbell SLSC, who sadly died in the line of service while performing a rescue with another member, who is currently recovering in hospital.

“This is a tragic outcome and our hearts go out to all involved - the friends and family of the deceased members and recovering member, as well as to the wider community of Port Campbell, the Port Campbell Surf Life Saving Club and the wider lifesaving community, who we know will share our deep sadness by today’s incident.

“We also extend our condolences to other emergency services affected, in particular the CFA and SES, and commend those who worked so hard from other emergency services agencies today in the rescue efforts.”

The Victorian Water Minister, Lisa Neville, said an investigation would be undertaken following the incident, advising “this is an unspeakable tragedy and my thoughts are with the two victims’ family and friends during this terribly sad time.

“These individuals selflessly volunteered to keep people safe and devastatingly, they’ve lost their lives doing that.”

A report will be prepared for the Victorian Coroner.

Image: Port Campbell.

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