Three Fingal Rovers Surf Life Saving Club members who rescued several people thrown off their boat in rough seas at the Tweed River Bar eight years ago have been honoured in the latest Australian Bravery Decorations.
Peter James Baird, of Pottsville, Byron Willard Douglas, of Kirra, and Douglas John Forsyth, of Murwillumbah, were awarded with a Group Bravery Citation for their actions on 3 January 2004, when they tackled treacherous conditions to help 12 people thrown off a charter dive vessel swamped by a big wave.
The life savers were on patrol when the charter vessel tried to negotiate the bar at Point Danger in treacherous conditions and driving rain.
The motor cut out and the boat was swamped, throwing those on board into the water where they were swept out to sea.
‘At the time, visibility was poor and the swell was two to three metres breaking the full width of the bar,’ briefing notes from the governor-general’s office said.
‘One lifeguard paddled a rescue board to reach the vessel, getting several victims to hang onto the board and others to hold a rope. Two other lifeguards launched an inflatable boat to rescue others.
‘Another pair of lifeguards launched a second boat; however, they were hindered from reaching the victims by the debris from the swamped vessel, but they managed to provide rescue tubes to those in the water.
‘Both rescue boats operated in very dangerous sea conditions.’
The citation, one of seven awarded around Australia on the 37th anniversary of the Australian honours system, recognises a collective act of bravery in ‘extraordinary circumstances’.
Tweed Heads resident James Danforth Small was among 41 people to receive a commendation for brave conduct.
On 1 November 2006, Mr Small, who was living on the NSW south coast and was a member of Mollymook Surf Lifesaving Club, rescued two people – one heavily pregnant – caught in a rip.
The highest category in the decorations, the Star of Courage, was awarded posthumously to a former nurse at Orange who died after stopping a knife attack on his colleague by an intruder wielding two steak knives at the local hospital in January last year.
Robert McKenzie Fenwick died from his wounds after the attack on his female colleague.
Governor-General Quentin Bryce also awarded 19 Bravery Medals.
Since their inception, the decorations have recognised Australian citizens and others for acts of bravery in other than warlike situations. Anyone may nominate any other person for the award. For more information about the awards see www.gg.gov.au or www.itsanhonour.gov.au.