Surf Life Saving NSW, Media Release, 23 January 2021.
On Friday 22 January at around 10pm, Surf Life Saving callout teams from the Illawarra joined other emergency services at Port Kembla where three people died after being washed into the surf.
The deceased were three males who were believed to have been fishing off the rocks when five people were hit by a large wave.
Illawarra Branch Duty Officers and the NSW Ambulance helicopter responded, along with Police and Marine Area Command and the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter. Reports that a fourth person was still missing was responded to by significant SLS assets this morning, including three jetskis, two inflatable rescue boats and volunteer lifesavers from Port Kembla SLSC.
SLSNSW Director of Lifesaving, Joel Wiseman, said despite the best efforts of lifesavers and emergency services, the rescue operation has ended in tragedy.
“Lifesavers attended the scene quickly, along with assistance from the rescue helicopter and police, to try and locate the fishermen in the dark,” said Joel Wiseman.
The Toll Ambulance helicopter winched two of the deceased from the water and Police retrieved the third person.
“Our hearts go out to the families of those who have died. Tragedies like this are sadly too familiar to our volunteer lifesavers and lifeguards and to lose three people in one incident is just horrendous.
“Rock fishing is very popular in this area, but sadly this location has seen numerous incidents and drownings over the years,” said Joel Wiseman.
SLSNSW CEO Steven Pearce attended the scene this morning to support the volunteer responders and said the conditions at the time were not ideal.
“The surf conditions have been hazardous throughout the week, which makes activities like rockfishing even more dangerous than usual,” said Steve Pearce.
Over recent days there has been a significant number of callouts and rescues responded to by Surf Life Saving throughout the state, many of them have been rock-related with people either jumping or being swept from rocks into the ocean. There have been five coastal drownings or deaths in the last six days.
Director of Lifesaving Joel Wiseman thanked the volunteers who have responded to callouts and the lifesavers who will be on the beach over the next few days, working to keep huge crowds of beachgoers safe from harm.
“Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the men who died last night, and we are extremely grateful for the efforts of lifesavers and emergency services who did what they could to help.”
Beach safety tips
- Always swim between the red and yellow patrol flags, for your nearest patrolled beach check the BeachSafe app or website
- Read the safety signs for information about the beach and ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for safety information
- Always swim with someone else so you can look out for each other, and always supervise children around the water
- Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- If you need help in the water, stay calm and attract attention by raising one arm
- In an emergency, dial Triple Zero
For information about patrol times, weather, and beach access restrictions visit the Beachsafe.org.au Website or Download the App
0405 203 764