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Byron Shire
October 23, 2021

Mates rescue man from surf at Broken Head

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Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter was tasked to a near drowning at Whites Beach, near Broken Head, on Sunday afternoon.

The chopper’s full medical team were winch inserted and assisted the road ambulance paramedics to treat a 36-year-old male who had been rescued by a fellow beach-goer..

They then winch extracted the patient on a stretcher and flew him in a stable condition to Lismore Base Hospital.

Disaster waiting to happen

Local resident Ian Cohen described the situation at the beach as a ‘disaster waiting to happen.

‘The spear fisherman nearly drowned but was saved by a guy with a boogie board.

‘There were about 50 people on the beach at the time,’ he said.

‘Two men were in the reserve with powerful spear guns in a half metre swell and got into difficulties.

‘There are no warning signs from Council or National Parks.’

Mr Cohen described the emergency response as ‘massive’, including two police cars, three rescue vehicles, a patrol jetski and the Westpac Helicopter.

‘The authorities’ response was effective however the rescue was already completed before they arrived,’ he said.

Lack of signage

But while complimentary about the response, Mr Cohen was not as positive about the lack of co-ordination between Byron Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) over road maintenance and signage issues.

‘Proper education and National Parks patrols could avoid this calamity.’

‘The state government is all about tourist promotion without adequate infrastructure funding.

‘Council and NPWS are so involved in demarcation disputes (Council road and NPWS beaches) that promised signage is not in place for the summer tourist onslaught.

‘Shark attack, fires and panic on an unsafe, unregulated, dead end road is a disaster waiting to happen and bigger than ever summer crowds are on their way.

The result could just as easily have been a tragedy.


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  1. It wont help that the Weekend Australian newspaper promotes Whites Beach as easily accessible “with a well maintained unsealed road”.


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