2018 Bravery Awards - Bristow Helicopters Australia

6 November 2018

Royal Life Saving WA has the pleasure of presenting 45 brave Western Australians with awards recently, for their efforts in saving lives. Some of those to receive 2018 Royal Life Saving Bravery Awards included Matt Vermeulen, Gordon Watt, Tony Mobilia and Craig Potter from Bristow Helicopters, who received a Gold Star Bravery Award each for their efforts in rescuing a pair of boys lost at sea.

In April this year the two boys, Tyson aged 12 and Jordan aged 18, found themselves adrift in the ocean for 21 hours in an inflatable boat with no food, water or safety gear, as waves peaked at two and a half metres.

Their ordeal began about 4pm on Monday 23rd of April, when their boat ran out of petrol, not long after they set off for a fishing trip at Lefroy Bay near Ningaloo Station. It was only supposed to be a quick trip, so they didn't take any food, water or safety gear with them.

They ended up spending the night at sea, and although they could see lights from the shore they had no way of signalling to anyone to say that they were in trouble.

Rescue boats and volunteers on the coast had been searching for the pair until midnight and again from first light on the Tuesday, with 3 helicopters, a challenger jet and 12 volunteer marine rescue vessels involved in the search.

On Tuesday morning, the boys knew people were searching for them because they twice saw a chopper circling above, but they couldn’t be seen. A lifeline arrived at around 12.45 in the afternoon, when the crew from Bristow Helicopters spotted the boys – it was a moment of pure joy for the chopper crew, who had been searching for hours. SAR Chief Crewman Gordon Watt says it was a worrying search for all involved "It is a big ocean and we were very concerned. They are amazingly lucky. It must have been absolutely terrifying.”

The boys were spotted by the First Officer Craig Potter, approximately 7km offshore, 30km west of Learmonth.

Matt Vermeulen played a crucial role, when he was sent down on the wire to winch the boys to safety. Pilot Tony Mobilia said it was a big swell and the boys told their rescuers at one stage they’d nearly capsized.

After a quick check-up at the Exmouth Medical Centre the brothers could go home with their relieved parents, suffering nothing more than a little dehydration.

Captain Tony Mobilia said that while it was humbling to receive the Bravery Award, they were just doing their jobs. “It is a great feeling to see the boys again and we appreciate the recognition of the award but it is just something we are trained to do."

The Royals commend the four men on their life-saving actions and congratulate them on their well-deserved Gold Star Bravery Awards.

If you would like to nominate someone for next year’s Bravery Awards, please click on the following link.

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