Cooks Hill rescue earns national attention

Mark Doherty

Mark Doherty

It was like any other Sunday for Mark Doherty.

He had finished his patrol as a volunteer with Cooks Hill Surf Club and was up in the club socialising with fellow members.

Then word filtered upstairs that there were a couple of people stuck in a rip at Bar Beach.

“We were on patrol all afternoon and had a reasonably busy day pulling kids out of a little inshore gutter,” Doherty recalled.

“The southerly change came through about four o’clock and cleaned the beach out so there was no one around.

“Patrol packed up just after five and most of the patrol team went home. I went upstairs for a beer and chat with a couple of people and at around half past five they were saying there were a couple of people stuck out in the rip off the south end of the surf club.”

Without hesitation, the Cooks Hill Surf Club club captain ran downstairs, grabbed a rescue board and hit the surf.

“I grabbed the two kids, who looked about nine and seven, and put them both on the board, one of top of the other almost and their dad must’ve swam out at the same time to rescue them himself,” Mr Doherty said.

“I said, ‘Are you OK?’ and he nodded but when I started paddling in I saw he wasn’t going anywhere, he was in the rip as well, so he grabbed onto the side and I paddled them across to the sand bank and pushed them in from there.”

Mr Doherty has been a member of the club since 1980 and said rescues are not out of the ordinary but “you don’t normally have rescues that are this knife-edge”.

It earned him a National Rescue of the Month award at Parliament House this month.

“It’s great to be recognised, and it’s good that Cooks Hill has been recognised,” Doherty said.

“We do this all of the time and we normally don’t think too much about it.

“We put a lot of hard work into keeping our beach safe just like all surf lifesavers around the country so it’s amazing to receive this type of recognition.”