Evans Head-Casino SLSC member Avan Christie won the NSW Rescue of the Month for April after rescuing four people in extraordinary circumstances.
On Monday April 6 just after 4:30pm, Avan, who is club treasurer and not an active patrolling lifesaver, rescued four swimmers in two separate incidents at Evans Head Main Beach and at Airforce Beach, before he found himself in trouble and needing assistance.
Despite the remarkable achievement, the Evans Head volunteer was surprised when he learned he would receive the national award owing to the significant number of brave rescues and quality nominations made for the month of April.
‘I feel extremely honoured and humbled to receive the award, considering the many worthy rescues which were eligible. I think every rescue that Surf Life Saving members perform deserves recognition,’ Avan said.
The drama unfolded for Avan when he dropped into the Evans Head-Casino SLSC to collect some paperwork after patrols had finished on Easter Monday. A member of the public ran up and alerted him to two people caught in a rip near the north wall.
Immediately Avan grabbed a rescue board and told the informant to call Triple Zero. He reached the shore to find an elderly woman and her grandchild struggling in a rip alongside the wall in two metre swell.
‘I guess I just jumped into action without thinking too much. Probably foolishly I didn’t really weigh up the risks. It was just what needed to be done,’ Avan said.
Avan paddled out and successfully brought both swimmers to shore, where paramedics examined them and they were released with no injuries.
When he returned to the surf club to pack up, another member of the public arrived from nearby Airforce Beach, advising that two teenagers were caught in a rip and were being swept out to sea.
‘I think I was in shock when the second alert came through, as I was already spent from paddling out and back twice,’ Avan said.
An ambulance was called and in the meantime, without hesitation, Avan once again grabbed the rescue board, this time running one kilometre north of the club to find a male and female struggling to keep their heads above water.
With the two swimmers now 500 metres from shore, Avan paddled out again, assisted the two onto the board and they were able to return to shore. In the process however, Avan found himself fatigued and struggling.
Luckily SurfCom had been radioed and lifesaver Rolan Murcott had arrived to assist with the rescue effort. He was able to help Avan to safety.
‘I was very glad to see Rolan paddling back out to get me. We had sent the swimmers back on the board and I was caught in the rip that got them in trouble,’ he said.
An ambulance attended and transported the female teen to hospital. Avan’s quick and courageous actions are admirable and despite not holding a Bronze Medallion, the Club Treasurer still risked his own life to save others. If Avan had not been there on the day, all four swimmers would have been in serious trouble.
Avan will receive his National Rescue of the Month Award at a special ceremony to be held at Parliament House in Canberra.