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A Dorset RNLI lifeguard has been praised for saving the lives of a family of four at a notorious surf spot in Australia.
21 year old Ross Leighton is out there working for the Australian Lifeguard Service in New South Wales
The lifesaving incident unfolded at around 2pm on Thursday 5th January. He was patrolling the famous Bennetts beach in the Hawks Nest area with fellow lifeguard Jacob Evans when they were alerted to a family in trouble in the sea by a member of the public.
It turned out a 43 year old male, his 19 year old son and daughter and her 19 year old boyfriend who had been swimming 400 metres north of the flagged area, had been swept off a sand bank and carried more than 60 metres out to sea in a rip current..
'It had been a pretty demanding day already, with the warm weather attracting plenty of holiday makers to the beach. Nearly 150 people were in the water with a two to three foot swell keeping the lifeguards busy. I grabbed the quad bike and a rescue tube and headed up there. I dived in and swam out to the furthest person in trouble and helped him ashore. I then grabbed a rescue board and headed back into the surf, where with the assistance of some of the younger surf club members, I was able to bring the remaining three swimmers to shore.'
Both the teenage men and the 43 year old were given oxygen therapy after their ordeal. One of the 19 year olds had also suffered a spinal injury and was transported to hospital with his friend. Both casualties were discharged later that day..
'This was the first time that I have had to deal with a big rescue on my own so I was delighted and relieved that the two casualties who were flown to hospital made a full recovery. Bennetts beach is renowned for sharks, I've seen two in the last three weeks and there was a sighting just the day before, so I was checking for fins as I was driving up the beach, slightly different to the types of hazards we are used to dealing with in Weymouth!'
Ross has since received praise from his senior lifeguard managers on both sides of the world;
Murray Copas, the New South Wales Surf Life Saving Operations Manager said Ross had done the Australian Lifeguard Service proud;
'It was an exceptional job by this lifeguard. To save four lives in the circumstances that he did is a brilliant effort.'
Nik Gorrell, Port Stephens Lifeguard Supervisor said;
'This situation could have been a lot worse, it's great that he reacted so quickly and came to their assistance.'
Meanwhile, back in the UK, after hearing of Ross's superb efforts, RNLI Lifeguard Manager Simon Crayfourd was also eager to sing his praises;
'The RNLI enjoy a really good relationship with the Australian lifesaving services, who have come to respect the level of training and professionalism that the RNLI lifeguards bring over with them. It's a great opportunity for lifeguards like Ross to enhance
their skills in a different environment and extend their summer. It sounds like he's doing a great job, having performed more than 26 rescues since arriving in October and this particular rescue is a fantastic effort for which I am sure the family are more than grateful. We look forward to seeing Ross back in Weymouth this summer!'