The Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter winched a rock fisherman to safety on Friday afternoon after he fell off the Yamba breakwall and into surf pounding him against rocks eight metres below.
But the dramatic rescue owes at least as much to swift action of a 55-year-old man and his 80-year-old father, without whose actions the man would almost certainly have died.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Kevin Cook, 55, squeezed between a gap in the rocks and dived into the water seconds after the event and managed to reach the man.
His father Les, who was a navy seaman in his day, threw down a jacket that Kevin tied around the man’s chest. He then threw down a rope that was tied to the jacket. The father and son then hauled the half-drowned man about halfway up the rock wall while the wait for rescuers continued.
A road ambulance was tasked ahead of the rescue chopper, something Les Cook was highly critical of.
‘I was in the navy and I did a lot of air-sea rescue. I said, “It’s no good getting the police, it’s no good getting an ambulance”. I said the best thing is a helicopter,’ he told the Herald.
Echonetdaily understands that the road ambulance was tasked to the incident at 8.51 on Friday morning and the helicopter was not tasked until 9am.
In October last year health minister Jillian Skinner promised an inquiry into a number of ambulance delays in the Northern Rivers region following at least two known deaths in the area that may have been avoided if ambulances had arrived promptly.
There were also criticisms that road ambulances were sent where helicopter ambulances were available to cover distance or difficult terrain more effectively.