HMAS Broome assists in civilian search and rescue

Published on LEUT Des Paroz (author), LSIS James Whittle (photographer)

Topic(s): Search and Rescue (SAR)

Lieutenant Commander Alicia Harrison, Commanding Officer HMAS Broome (centre) with Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Jake Mewett (left) and Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Greig Murray, in Cairns to conduct maintenance on the ship. (photo: LSIS James Whittle)
Lieutenant Commander Alicia Harrison, Commanding Officer HMAS Broome (centre) with Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Jake Mewett (left) and Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Greig Murray, in Cairns to conduct maintenance on the ship.

Royal Australian Navy patrol boat HMAS Broome has assisted in a search and rescue of 12 people stuck in unfavourable sea conditions during a patrol in the Torres Strait recently.

The Rescue Coordination Centre - Australia dispatched a civilian helicopter following the activation of a rescue beacon on 25 September where they were able to get a helicopter crewman on to the distressed vessel which had nine adults and children onboard.

It was quickly realised that a dinghy with three people onboard was also in distress nearby.

Lieutenant Alicia Harrison, Commanding Officer HMAS Broome, said her patrol boat crew were called into assist as a result of the prevailing weather conditions.

“Due to shoals in the area, Broome had to remain around eight nautical miles from the distressed boats, so we dispatched a sea-boat with three crew members to the reported location of the dinghy,” she said.

“My Executive Officer, Petty Officer Coxswain and Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate discovered the dingy, with the three occupants clinging to the upturned hull.

“It was challenging to recover the three people due to the conditions but once successfully completed they were transferred to a Queensland Police boat, Handran.”

The sea-boat crew then turned their attention to the nine passengers onboard the 5m boat, which was now in the mangroves on a nearby island.

With very shallow waters, Broome’s Coxswain Petty Officer Greig Murray, entered the waist-deep water to bring the nine occupants back to the sea-boat, one-at-a-time, before working with two of the occupants to secure the civilian boat in the mangroves for later recovery.

“Although the distance was only about 20 metres, being late at night it took some time to get each of the passengers safely to our sea-boat.

“I think we were all relieved when we finally got them loaded, and then across to Handran where the Police were able to provide them with further assistance,” Petty Officer Murray said.

The late night rescue was a successful operation as a result of the efforts of a large group of people, from several organisations.

“The coordination between the Rescue Coordination Centre, Customs and Rescue aircraft, the Queensland Police Boat and HMAS Broome’s crew ensured that 12 people were rescued in challenging seas, late at night,” Lieutenant Commander Harrison said.

“My whole crew did a great job of responding to this request for assistance, particularly the sea-boat crew of Lieutenant Mark Doggett, Petty Officer Greig Murray and Leading Seaman Jake Mewett.”