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February 27, 2021

Suffolk surfer saved two lives

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‘Something anyone would do’… Suffolk surfer and impromptu life saver Bernard McCaffery.


Story & photo Eve Jeffery

When Bernard McCaffery headed down to his local beach for a surf he came away a hero.

And because of his action, Bernard’s is one of 50 Commendations for Brave Conduct approved by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, governor-general of the Commonwealth of Australia.

On November 27, 2008 Bernie pulled two swimmers from the ocean at Suffolk Park.

‘I checked the water and then brought my board back up to go for a quick surf,’ says Bernie.

‘There was a really strong rip; that was the reason I was going surfing because there was a little left with a wave going off it. There were no other surfers about and I was really keen to get into the water.’

Bernie says when he got back to the beach with his board a group of people saw him and ran up and asked for assistance for two people who were struggling in the surf. He was told that there was a woman, and a man who had gone to assist her, who were in distress out past the breakers.

Three other men had also entered the water to assist. Bernie made his way to the swimmers and he dragged the exhausted woman onto the board.

‘I got the girl on. She was pretty blue and struggling. I got her in and was told that one of the men who was trying to save her was in trouble as well so I went back out and got him. It probably took an hour or so to get them in – it was a really strong rip.’

Mr McCaffery managed to get the pair to shore, while the other men made their way back to the beach, after being in the water for almost forty minutes.

Bernie, who will receive his award at a ceremony in Sydney later in the year, said he didn’t expect to be honoured in such a way. ‘It happens all the time. Surfers are always saving people. It’s something anyone would do.’


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