Individual: For Outstanding Individual Contribution to a Maritime SAR Operation

On the evening of Sunday 11 December, 2016, off-duty Coastguard Operations Manager Ray Burge and his family were driving past Waiomanu Bay, east of Maraetai Beach in Auckland, New Zealand when he spotted a man in the water frantically waving his arms, desperately calling for help.

Ray stopped his vehicle and ran down to the beach, where he was met by three small children who told him that their father was in the water and needed help. Ray grabbed his mobile phone and called the Coastguard Operations Centre.

Knowing the man was in grave danger and seeing him submerged under the water, Ray knew he needed to get to him immediately. As he ran into the water he asked his daughter to call a Coastguard Maraetai Rescue Vessel. The man had drifted approximately 200m out to sea when Ray reached him. The conditions were challenging with 25 knot winds and a 1.5 metre swell.

The man was exhausted and unable to swim anymore but by battling the waves with only one arm, while holding the man’s head above water with the other, Ray managed to swim the distraught man back to the beach. It was only then that Ray discovered that he was trying to save his wife – who was nowhere to be seen.

Ray relayed information to the Duty Officer who was able to give Coastguard Maraetai an accurate location of where the mother was likely to be. He also requested an ambulance as the man was in a serious condition.

The Coastguard rescue vessel went to the given location and remarkably spotted woman, pulling her to safety from the strong current and heavy seas, taking her to the Maraetai Beach Boating Club where she was reunited with her upset but relieved children.

Ray's rapid actions and courage saved two lives that day, he performed this heroic act of bravery as a member of the public, but his Coastguard knowledge and SAR experience meant he could manage and coordinate the life-saving actions that prevented three children from losing their parents.


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