Father And Son Rescuers Killed During Rescue Named
Ross and Andy Powell died trying to save a tourist from treacherous waters off Victoria's coastline.
Emergency crews worked tirelessly to save the father and son, aged 32 and 71. Sadly both were declared dead at the scene after their bodies were located in the water.
Victoria Police said both men were volunteer surf lifesavers from Port Campbell who were very involved with the local community. Friends told The Herald Sun the father and son were hardworking farmers who would "go out of there way to help anyone at any given time”.
The two men died after a wave overturned Port Campbell Surf Lifesaving Club's rescue boat which had three crew on board at the time. The third man, Phil Younis, is currently in hospital in a serious condition.
The rescue boat was attempting to save a 30-year-old man at Sherbrook River in Port Campbell National Park at around 10:40am when it capsized. The tourist was winched to safety and is in a stable condition.
Ambulance Victoria told 10 daily a man in his 30s was transported to hospital in a stable condition suffering from hypothermia, while a man in his 50s was airlifted in a serious condition suffering injuries to his back and leg.
Speaking to media a short time after confirmation that Ross and Andy Powell had drowned, an emotional Life-Saving Victoria President Paul James, said it was "heartbreaking" for the Port Campbell community.
"It's with a very heavy heart that I stand here before you today to inform you that two of our members have died today performing a rescue at Port Campbell," he said.
Police initially said the tourist has been taking photos from a rock ledge when he was swept away into the water, but have since said the man was wading at the mouth of the river when he got into difficulty.
Ian and Lisette McCauley were on a walk to the nearby 12 Apostles when they saw the rescue operation taking place.
Lisette captured dramatic vision of the helicopter rescue after seeing the ambulance chopper hovering over one the bays.
"We could see it dropping a rescuer over the cliff and into the water," Ian told 10 daily.
The couple contacted police who were responding to the incident alongside other emergency services.
Ian said the weather in the area had been warm with only a slight breeze in the morning but said the swell in the water looked to be rough from his point of view.
He praised the professionalism and bravery of the rescue workers and helicopter pilot at the scene who undertook the risky operation just metres from where large waves were crashing into cliffs.
"[They] saved two people and halved the tragedy, certainly it's very very sad that two people lost their lives," Ian said.
"But those other two were saved by the great work of the helicopter pilot and the other rescue person in the water."
Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for Water Lisa Neville released a statement on Sunday evening calling the drownings an "unspeakable tragedy".
"These individuals selflessly volunteered to keep people safe and devastatingly, they’ve lost their lives doing that," Neville said.
"My heartfelt thanks goes out to them and their loved ones for their commitment to their community."
The minister promised a full investigation into the incident.
Featured Image: Ian McCauley