Battling high seas, strong winds and five separate mayday calls at once, the four members of the small NSW Police crew feared they too would need rescuing.
“We were getting hit by waves over the top and through the cabin so we had some concerns the electronics would go down and we would lose our navigation,” Sergeant Tony Hogg said.
“When we were coming through the heads at Nelson Bay we got hit with a couple of big waves, but that goes with the job.”
Sgt Hogg, who is co-ordinator for the Port Stephens NSW Police Marine Area Command, and three of his crew members spent more than 24 hours on the water in treacherous conditions rescuing boats in distress during severe storms on January 6.
He along with senior constables Matthew Gray, Andrew Parker and Nick Leach have all been nominated for a Pride of Australia Bravery award for their efforts, which led to the successful rescue of four boats in one day.
Senior Constable Matt Gray and Sergeant Tony Hogg at Balmain headquarters. Picture: Toby Zerna
The crew also spent hours searching for a man who had fallen overboard from a yacht in the rough seas, but he had drowned and his body was not found until several days later.
Sgt Hogg said the marathon day began at 2am when the first distress call came in.
“We got called out to a position around 30-40 nautical miles off Foster in relation to a guy on a yacht who was stuck up a mast,” he said.
“When we got out there he was still stuck up there, so we got him down and as we headed back to Port Stephens, that’s when the east coast low started coming in.”
Over the next 24 hours, the four officers battled against the treacherous conditions, towing two boats back to shore, as well as conducting an extensive water search for the man who had fallen overboard.
During the rescue of a yacht which needed to be towed back to shore, the struggling crew had to scramble to fix the tow rope several times after it snapped in the high seas.
A third vessel was also rescued with the help of a volunteer rescue boat, which in turn also had to be rescued by police when it capsized.
Meanwhile, the men who were involved in the first rescue mission ignored advice to return to shore, and had again got into trouble and were being swept towards rocks.
The police crew was unable to reach them before they crashed on to the beach. Miraculously they all walked away unharmed.
Sgt Hogg, who was on the water with Sen Const. Gray for 24 hours while Senior Constables Leach and Parker worked for more than 30 hours, said it was “not an average day on the job”.
“I’m very proud of my staff. They’re a great bunch of fellas and they all work very well together under adverse conditions.”
The 2016 Pride of Australia Awards are aimed at recognising those who have displayed acts of courage, bravery or community spirit.
They also honour compassionate carers and everyday Australians doing extraordinary things.
The awards are proudly presented by The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph, NewsLocal and supported by Clubs NSW. Eight winners will be announced at a ceremony on December 1 and will feature in the National Pride of Australia magazine in January.
Tags: MARINE RESCUE, sar