Local Waratah Beach surf lifesaving volunteers complete critical helicopter training

WARATAH BEACH, VIC. On New Year’s Eve 2020, while most of us were getting ready to pop the champagne and say hello to 2021, Waratah Bay Lifesavers were completing invaluable rescue training with the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service (WLRHS).

The Waratah Bay Marine Search and Rescue (MSAR) worked alongside WLRHS ‘Lifesaver 30’, a twin-engine Airbus H135 P2+ helicopter with winch capability, to hone their emergency management skills specific to the Bass District.

According to Waratah Beach Surf Life Saving Club Director of Lifesaving Services, Keegan Clarke, the training will help keep local communities safe this summer.

“This training gives everyone involved the chance to experience conditions and prepare for challenges like wind and surf specific to the area, which are likely to be contributing factors in a real-life surf and rescue operation,” Mr Clarke said.

“It also gives our members a boost, being able to participate in something this significant. It’s not every day you get to train with a helicopter,” he added.

LSV General Manager Lifesaving Operations Liam Krige said the exercise focused on familiarising the Waratah MSAR Crews with extended winch operations, winching from a vessel and testing their search and rescue capabilities.

“Our teams operate in extreme environments so exercises like these are critical to skills maintenance, ensuring crews are in the best possible position to respond in a real-life incident and delivering better outcomes for the local community,” Mr Krige said.

“It was an extremely beneficial and successful endeavour and further opportunities will be explored.”

The training comes as crews prepare for a season like no other with Victoria experiencing a spate of fatal drowning incidents, the likes of which haven’t been seen since record keeping began.

Thirty-eight drowning deaths have occurred in the state since 1 July 2020, surpassing the previous financial year’s total of 34 drowning fatalities. It is a timely reminder to beachgoers to check conditions before heading to the beach, swim at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags and supervise kids.

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