BRAVERY REWARDED: Ballina Marine Rescue members Rod Guest (left), Tony Handcock and David Nockolds (absent) will today receive a Group Bravery Citation for their efforts in coming to the assistance of a stricken vessel in 2013.
BRAVERY REWARDED: Ballina Marine Rescue members Rod Guest (left), Tony Handcock and David Nockolds (absent) will today receive a Group Bravery Citation for their efforts in coming to the assistance of a stricken vessel in 2013. Graham Broadhead

Rescue in rough seas wins bravery award

TONY Handcock and Rod Guest aren't members of the volunteer Ballina Marine Rescue unit to get accolades, but today, their bravery during an operation two years ago is being acknowledged.

Three crew members - Tony Nockolds is currently enjoying a holiday - will today received a Group Bravery Citation for their efforts in coming to the aid of a stricken vessel on April 15, 2013.

It was during that incident that Mr Handcock thought he might not get through it alive.

"This is just something we do," he said.

"We don't expect anything out of it.

"It's part of our job."

But he said it was nice to be recognised.

The Marine Rescue crew, with Mr Handcock as skipper, was called out about 1am on April 15, 2013, to help a motor vessel that had broken down while attempting to cross the bar and its anchor line wouldn't hold.

There was a two-metre swell running, and the tide was on its way out when the Marine Rescue crew arrived at the motor vessel with two men on board.

A tow line was attached but, in the harsh sea conditions, it didn't hold.

Meanwhile, one of the men on the motor vessel was knocked into the water.

Mr Handcock immediately called the Ballina Jet Boat Surf Rescue boat.

The Marine Rescue crew managed to get that man into the boat, after carefully manoeuvring the vessel around him in the water.

Mr Handcock, an experienced boatie, said that manoeuvring put the Marine Rescue vessel into a vulnerable position, and a large wave struck, capsizing both the Marine Rescue vessel and the motor cruiser.

The rescued man, Mr Handcock and Mr Guest were then trapped in the upturned Marine Rescue vessel for what Mr Handcock said was about an hour.

"We knew the jet boat would be on the way," he said.

"We stayed in the air pocket in the cabin until the boat started to settle down, so we figured we had gone past the bar.

"Once we saw the air pocket was getting smaller, we decided to get out, so we climbed through a window."

Mr Handcock and the rescued boatie surfaced and climbed on board the hull with Mr Nockolds, while Mr Guest and the other boatie were in the water nearby.

Mr Guest was injured during the incident, but is back on the Marine Rescue vessel now.

Mr Handcock had no hesitation in getting back on board.

"I just like to help other people," he said.

"And the look of gratitude in people's faces, that's enough (reward)."

The jet boat, with a crew of two, picked up the five men, but conditions were so rough, the decision was made to beach the jet boat on Shelly Beach where the three Marine Rescue crew and the two boaties received treatment of hypothermia.

The jet boat crew's efforts have previously been recognised.