Sea rescues proof of the coast danger

Albany Advertiser

Being ready, willing and able are qualities Jason Shepherd often calls on, and he had to do so again last Sunday.

The experienced Albany Sea Rescue Squad member was enjoying a day at Nanarup Beach when he came across a family in distress caught in a dangerous rip.

“There was only me and my oldest boy out there, there was nobody else on the beach,” he said.

“I thought I might have needed some more help, but as no one else was there I had to deal with the situation by myself.”

“You see someone in distress so you head over there and find out what’s going on.

“Then I realised they were panicking and starting to swim back up the current so I thought ‘I need to give these guys a hand here’.”

Remaining calm, he rescued five children and two adults from the rip by pulling them onto his boogie board and helping them swim across the current in separate trips to and from the shore.

Mr Shepherd said it was in his nature to assist, ever since joining Sea Rescue 13 years ago. “It was just a love of the ocean that I had and being in a position to help people in trouble on the seas — it has nothing to do with awards or recognition,” he said.

“A pat on the back from the people you rescue or a hug says a lot more than a medal does.”

Mr Shepherd received a hug from the family he rescued on Sunday but he said many hugs squad members received were from families thankful their loved one’s body had been retrieved for closure after a drowning.

He said the rescue was an example of just how easy it was to fall into trouble on the often unforgiving south coast and should act as a reminder with the salmon season approaching.

Rescue authorities have been faced with drowning fatalities off the Albany coast in the past four years, along with numerous lucky rescues.

“It’s always in the back of your mind, being salmon season, especially with the amount of rock (fishing) deaths we have had at this time of year,” Mr Shepherd said. “It’s always there; with every phone call you get from Sea Rescue you think ‘is this another one?’.”

Mr Shepherd’s older brother Gavin, who also volunteers with the Albany Surf Life Saving Club’s emergency response team, said the nature of the south coast meant many rescue operations unfortunately turned into body recoveries if proper safety precautions were not taken.

“If you’re rock fishing make sure you have flotation vest,” he said.

“If you float, we have a chance of getting to you. if you don’t float, it’s a recovery operation.

“You can’t talk highly enough of the benefit of putting a flotation device on. Both Sea Rescue and the ERT squads have received bravery awards for their rescues in recent years, having formed a strong alliance to assist those in peril.

The team was prepared for the coming months with an increase of visitors and locals to the south coast and hoped for a rescue and fatality-free period.

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