Surfers' 'heroic' act in fatal NSW boat accident

·3-min read

Surfers first on the scene when a fatal boat accident occurred off the coast of Wollongong have been praised for their heroic actions in the rescue.

Emergency services were called to Waniora Point in Bulli around 10:20am on Sunday in response to a fishing boat that had capsized. 

Rescuers performed CPR on four people at the scene until paramedics arrived. Tragically, one person could not be revived and died.

Areal screenshot of the water with a red circle identified a boat that capsized in the bottom left hand corner.
One person has died and six were injured after a boating accident in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. Source: ABC News

Quickest response time possible

According to Steven Pearce from Surf Life Saving Australia, there were several males in the water when lifesavers arrived.

"Our lifesavers dove under the boat to withdraw these unconscious men out of the boat and with the assistance of surfers were able to hold these victims afloat until we could get our rubber ducks and all our jetskis out on the water to go perform the rescue," he said in a press conference on Sunday.

"I would say not just for the lifesavers who have attended but the members of the community, the surfers out in the water who were actually under that boat before our lifesavers got there are heroes.

"They are the ones that were able to hold these people afloat until we could get the lifesavers out there."

Mr Pearce said it was "extremely fortuitous" the club was doing a training accident at the time of the accident and had every boat and every jet ski on the beach "ready to launch."

"It is that quickest response that could have ever occurred for this incident," he said.

"If the moons hadn't aligned, if a sliding door moment hadn't occurred, we would have multiple fatalities today, I am very confident of that."

'Heartbreaking scene'

Eight crews and three Ambulance Rescue Helicopters — including three critical care doctors and three critical care paramedics — were dispatched to the scene.

Eight patients were attended to upon arrival by paramedics. Three are in critical condition and have been airlifted to nearby hospitals.

Two are in a stable condition in Wollongong hospital and two were assessed at the scene and didn't require further medical attention. 

Sadly, one patient died at the scene.

Screenshot of areal footage showing a beach with emergency services gathered in one area on the sand.
Emergency services were called to Waniora Point, Bulli following reports a boat capsized. Source: Nine

Inspector Norm Rees from NSW Ambulance said the accident was one of the most difficult jobs he's attended in his 34-year career.

“Initial reports suggested there was several people clinging to the side a boat that was quickly capsizing," he said in a statement.

“I want to say a huge thank you to the surf lifesavers and bystanders that risked their lives to try and save these people. They gave them every chance of survival.”

“It was a heartbreaking scene - what was meant to be a great day out on the water has turned into an absolute disaster.”

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