Search for ‘victims’ in challenging Northern Rivers marine rescue test

Marine Rescue specialists from the NSW Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast took to the water in rugged conditions off Yamba to search for “victims” from a simulated plane crash at sea as part of a major capability exercise this morning.

The search was the focus of a two-day regional Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) designed to test agencies’ marine search and rescue practices and coordination.

All search targets were successfully located in the large and challenging swell that tested crews’ skill, knowledge and endurance.

MRNSW Deputy Commissioner Alex Barrell said fifty-five volunteers from nine MRNSW units were among more than 70 specialists taking part in the third of the 2021 SAREX series.

Members of the Point Danger, Brunswick, Cape Byron, Ballina, Evans Head, Iluka Yamba, Wooli, Woolgoolga and Coffs Harbour units joined in the search and onshore exercises.

They were joined by personnel from the NSW Police Force Marine Area Command, Australia Maritime Safety Authority, Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter and Surf Life Saving NSW.

“These exercises are staged along the coastline each year to hone marine rescue search and rescue skills and cooperation between agencies to ensure we can all operate seamlessly in an emergency,” Deputy Commissioner Barrell said.

“This weekend’s event is a major component of our ongoing professional training program for our volunteers in this busy boating region.

“Our volunteers are trained to the highest standards for their roles and the on-water experience they gain from a SAREX helps keep them rescue-ready around the clock.”

The search exercise is based on a scenario involving a search for multiple victims of a large-scale emergency.

The search started about 8.30am on Saturday, with rescue vessels from the Marine Rescue Ballina, Evans Head, Iluka Yamba and Wooli units and a NSW Police vessel heading offshore from Yamba.

Rescue watercraft (jet skis) from Marine Rescue Brunswick and Surf Life Saving scoured the shoreline.

At the same time, volunteers from all nine units undertook incident management, logistics, communications and navigation exercises on shore.

Deputy Commissioner Barrell said the SAREX series helped strengthen joint agency capability.

“This is essential to ensure that we have the best possible chance of finding and rescuing someone in the water as soon as possible in an emergency, when time is always of the essence,” he said.