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Kosciuszko rescuers receive GG bravery award

Ian Campbell 28 March 2019
The Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove. Photo; Governor-General website.

The Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove. Photo; Governor-General website.

The actions of emergency services during a daring high country rescue nine years ago have been honoured at the highest level.

Three current and retired NSW Police officers, two NSW Ambulance Paramedics, and two NSW State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers,  have been recognised for their brave actions with Australian Bravery Decorations.

The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) has singled out 101 Australians who, without thought of personal risk, displayed courage and bravery to protect or defend others.

The bravery of the seven rescuers stood out in the rescue of two people trapped in Kosciuszko National Park, in extream weather conditions in the early hours of August 2, 2010.

“They are a source of courage, support and inspiration, and we are a stronger, safer and more caring nation because of them,” the Governor-General said.

Senior Constable Wayne Gregory Bolitho, Senior Constable Michael Darren Hartas, and Senior Constable Kevin Martin (Retired) from NSW Police, Garry McKeahnie and Paul Thompson from NSW Ambulance, and David Afele and Dan Marsden from Snowy River SES, were tasked with searching for two cross country skiers who were trapped in a blizzard near Blue Lake in Kosciuszko National Park.

Nearly a metre of snow had fallen during the previous 36 hours.

Two of the rescue team set out to search for the skiers in an over- snow ambulance, while the five headed out on foot in temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius and wind speeds in excess of 100km/hr.

After searching in the dark for some time, the missing skiers were located partially buried in the snow and suffering hypothermia. The team quickly helped the skiers down a steep slope to the safety of the rescue vehicle.

The vehicle was then navigated through deteriorating blizzard conditions, reaching Charlotte Pass more than four hours later.

NSW Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller APM, says his officers represent the best of the NSW Police Force and that their actions reflect the dedication to duty shared by all members of the organisation.

“I’m immensely proud of the actions of these officers, who put the safety and wellbeing of others ahead of their own”.

“They have truly lived up to their oath of office and are a credit to the organisation,” Commissioner Fuller says.

Blue Lake, Kosciusko National Park. Photo: NPWS.

Blue Lake, Kosciusko National Park. Photo: NPWS.

NSW SES Acting Commissioner Kyle Stewart congratulated his men on their award, “Our volunteers represent the very best of the NSW SES.”

“David and Dan put the safety of our community first even in a dangerous situation.”

Australian Bravery Decorations recognise acts of bravery in other than warlike situations. It’s part of the Australian Honours System, established in 1975.

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