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Byron Shire
April 13, 2021

Ballina Marine Rescue volunteers awarded for bravery

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Marine Rescue NSW has congratulated three members of Marine Rescue Ballina, who were honoured with a Group Bravery Citation on Wednesday for their efforts during a 2013 rescue operation in dark and dangerous conditions.

Commissioner Stacey Tannos said the citation was well-deserved recognition for Tony Handcock, Rodney Guest and David Nockolds, whose rescue vessel capsized when hit by a large swell during the operation to save two men on a stricken motor cruiser on the Ballina bar.

‘Our three members demonstrated selfless courage in going to the rescue of the men on the broken down cruiser in the pitch dark, with a large swell on the notorious Richmond River bar,’ he said.

‘Today we congratulate Tony, Rodney and David on this fitting national acknowledgement of their bravery and service to our community,’ he said.

‘The safety of our members is Marine Rescue’s highest priority but this incident served as a reminder of the dangers all rescue crews face on the water.

‘We are immensely grateful that Tony, Rodney and David escaped and are today continuing to assist and protect boaters on the northern rivers as members of Marine Rescue Ballina.’

The three men responded on board Ballina 30 when the motor cruiser’s crew called for help just after midnight on April 15, 2013, navigating through turbulent conditions on the outgoing tide to reach the pair.

As BA 30 attempted to tow the cruiser off the breakwall, one of the cruiser’s crew was thrown overboard and the other leapt into the water. The BA 30 crew retrieved one man but before they could reach the second, the rescue vessel was swamped and capsized.

David and Rodney fought their way out of the cabin to cling to the upturned hull but Tony and the rescued man were trapped inside as BA 30 washed over the bar and out to sea, before eventually struggling free. The other boater was in the water nearby.

Commissioner Tannos again thanked the crew members of the Ballina Jet rescue service who sped to the men’s aid, plucking them all from the water and, with conditions on the bar too rough for a second crossing, beaching on nearby Shelley Beach so the five could be transferred to hospital. The Westpac Rescue Helicopter also responded.

‘We owe the members of all three rescue services a debt of gratitude for their skill and dedication,’ Commissioner Tannos said.

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