A mass rescue unfolded at one of Sydney’s busiest beaches after a bus full of Hillsong Church members, who ignored a series of warnings, became trapped in a treacherous rip.
Anthony ‘Harries’ Carroll, star of Bondi Rescue, was finishing up teaching a pilates class at Bronte Beach when he saw the mayhem in the water just before 8pm on Tuesday night.
Eight people had been pulled out to sea with overhead dumping waves sending several of them them underwater.
Surfers attempted to use their boards to keep members of the group above the surface as Carroll, Bronte Surf Club Captain James McLennan and other off-duty lifeguards rushed to grab their rescue equipment.
“A couple of them had gone completely under,” Carroll told Yahoo News.
“There was a whole bunch of them in the rip, they were really struggling.”
He said the group, who had come down to the popular beach on a bus, had “absolutely no chance of surviving” had it not been for the lifeguards and the members of his pilates group who rushed to their aid.
“I’ve been in the game 23 years and when you see that kind of thing, you just know you just need to go,” he added.
“They were so bloody lucky people were there.”
James said without boards, there was “zero chance” they’d have been able to bring themselves back onto land.
“Even just getting the rescue boards out was very difficult… if it wasn’t for the surfers, it could have been a different story,” he said.
Fortunately, one-by-one the stranded beachgoers were brought back onto the sand where they were given a “hard chat” about the risks involved with swimming in such dangerous conditions.
Bronte Beach second most dangerous in Australia
After pulling six Polynesian tourists into shore the night earlier, the veteran lifeguards questioned when people were going to get the message about just how deadly Australia’s beaches can be – especially when they’re unmanned.
“Bronte Beach is the second most dangerous beach in Australia but people continue to flock down there at night time,” Harries explained.
“People think they have the ability, they think they are strong swimmers but the water is so unforgiving when those waves start breaking on you.”
He said that Aussie culture to help out people, when they see someone struggling, is putting lives in danger and tearing families apart.
“Every night there are multiple people being pulled from the water, the amount of taxpayer money that is going into the searches and helicopters is ridiculous.
“Everyone watches Bondi Rescue, every time I walk down the street someone wants a photo, surely they know [how dangerous the water is] by now.
“It’s gotten out of hand, if there are no red and yellow flags, just stay out of the water.”
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