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Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner honours Port Macquarie volunteers

10 Marine Rescue Port Macquarie volunteers have been honoured with significant awards by Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Alex Barrell during a ceremony at the Westport Club last week (Wednesday 3 July).

Commissioner’s Citations were presented to eight volunteers for their role during a late night rescue mission in harrowing offshore conditions last October.

Marine Rescue Port Macquarie radio operators received a MAYDAY call from the skipper of a 12 metre yacht with two people on board just after 8pm on Monday 16 October 2023 after his vessel became disabled with a broken boom followed by engine and communications failure.

Marine Rescue Port Macquarie Unit Commander Greg Davies said a volunteer crew was deployed on PM 30 to assist the sailors who were located five nautical miles (9 kilometres) off Port Macquarie.

“Conditions deteriorated during the rescue mission with our crew enduring 107km/h wind gusts on four to five metre seas.

“They successfully reached the disabled vessel, secured a tow line and returned the sailors and their yacht to safety on the Hastings River following a tense five-and-a-half hour rescue mission.

“The crew on board PM 30 was supported by our radio operator and watch officer who managed vital communications during the mission,” Unit Commander Davies said.

Almost nine months after the challenging rescue, Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Alex Barrell last night presented the Port Macquarie 30 crew of skipper Leonard Smart, leading crew Rob Britten and crew members David Withers, Warren Gowing, Bruce Lee and Michael Ranson-Smith along with radio operator Brooke Mason and duty watch officer Ian Pascoe with Commissioner’s Citations.

Award Recipients with Commissioner Barrell

“The courage and selfless dedication of the volunteers involved in this challenging and successful rescue mission is greatly appreciated and deserving of a Commissioner’s Citation.

“The crew on board Port Macquarie 30 braved extreme conditions in darkness to save the two sailors and their vessel while the professionalism and calmness shown by Brooke and Ian who coordinated the response from the radio base aided the positive outcome.

“The skill and commitment of our volunteers to respond at any time of day or night and often in extremely challenging conditions is testament to their dedication to the communities they serve,” Commissioner Barrell said.

Long-serving volunteers Keith Reichenbach and Trish Hallett were also acknowledged last night with the pair receiving a Commissioner’s Citation for Service.

“Keith and Trish have a combined 28 years of the service with the Port Macquarie unit and continually go above and beyond, always putting others first.

“They are incredible people and it is wonderful to award them Commissioner’s Citations for Service,” Commissioner Barrell said.

Unit Life Member Mr Reichenbach will stand down as Treasurer this month following 14 years in the role. He will continue to serve as Assistant Treasurer and remain an active radio operator with the unit.

Ms Hallett has spent the past four years as the unit’s Welfare Officer and speaks with all volunteers on a regular basis.

Unit Commander Davies said Ms Hallett is a compassionate and caring woman.

“Trish is an angel, she is always available to help our members who may be ill or in need of assistance. She drops off groceries, provides transport for appointments and importantly checks in on how they are doing, she is an incredible human,” Mr Davies said.

Marine Rescue NSW is a volunteer based not-for-profit professional organisation dedicated to keeping boaters safe on the water and supporting local communities.

Greg Davies, Alex Barrell, Trish Hallett, Keith Reichenbach