A group of rookie surf lifesavers has saved a group of children from drowning after they were caught up in a rip, with one of the heroes who rescued them claiming it could’ve ended in “tragedy”.
The group of 20 children and a number of parents, who were celebrating the end of Year 6, ran into trouble after becoming caught in a rip on Wamberall Beach on the NSW Central Coast at around 8:30pm on Wednesday night.
A group of soon to be lifesavers was undergoing one of the final exams to achieve their Bronze Medallion at the surf club nearby, before “grabbing their boards and racing down” after a mum raised the alarm, according to Wamberal’s director of lifesaving, Craig Adams.
“It was a pretty confronting scene when we first went down there; lots of distressed parents and screaming kids, but luckily we were there,” Mr Adams said.
“They were terrified, they were literally minutes away from drowning.”
Wamberal is a popular surf beach known for its strong rips and large waves.
“Swimming is best down between the flags near the surf club. North Wamberal is dominated by active and often strong rips,” a website set up by locals reads.
The group didn’t hesitate, jumping in for the rescue despite not having their official certification, with three people, including Mr Adams, heading out on rescue boards to bring the children into shore.
“I probably had six or seven kids on my board, then the guys were coming out and I was directing them, and they very quickly had a number of kids on their own board,” he said.
However, their plans for a quick rescue were halted, with the children panicking.
“So the plan was to ferry them back in, but this is all taking place while the waves are coming in and the kids are all crying and screaming,” Mr Adams said.
“Between us, we worked out that wasn’t going to happen, because the kids wouldn’t let go of the boards for us to ferry them in.
“The boards were keeping them afloat and they would not let go for love or money.
“We worked the boards out of the rip and into a position where the waves eventually brought us through and after about 10 minutes, we were back into shore, where we could get assistance with the patients.”
Though the group in need of rescuing were predominantly children, it was the parents, who had also sprung into action, who needed first aid.
“Obviously there were a lot of distressed parents, many were in shock, particularly among those who went into the water; a lot of mums jumped in when they clearly weren’t very confident swimmers,” Mr Adams said.
“You can imagine as a parent on the beach looking at the children and not being able to assist them, they were quite distressed.”
Two women in their 40s were assessed by paramedics after they took on water, with one being taken to Gosford Hospital for further examination after experiencing shortness of breath.
She’s now okay according to Mr Adams, who said it would be a different story had the group of lifesavers not been there.
“Without talking ourselves up too much, if ourselves or someone hadn’t been there to rescue them, there would definitely be a high number of tragedies. It’s a very good result that could’ve been so much worse.”