Sunbury Unit boat crew rescue two from car roof in Gippsland

Sunbury Unit boat crew rescue two from car roof in Gippsland

09/10/2023, 12:00 PM

VICSES volunteers Alan Kuras and Jacinta Hall from VICSES Sunbury Unit, and Jaymes Oldani from VICSES Hobsons Bay Unit, who deployed to Gippsland last week. 

Local volunteers from Sunbury successful saved two people from the roof of their vehicle in floodwater whilst on deployment in Gippsland last Friday.​

On Friday morning at 5:30am, a VICSES boat crew, stationed at Lakes Entrance, received a call from Victoria Police to attend a water rescue incident in Bairnsdale.

Coxswains Alan Kuras and Jacinta Hall, volunteers from VICSES Sunbury Unit, and boat crew member Jaymes Oldani from Hobsons Bay Unit were deployed to Bairnsdale on Wednesday, to assist flood-affected communities as a boat rescue crew of three.

The boat crew arrived on the scene to find Land-Based Swift Water Rescue-qualified volunteers, from VICSES Bairnsdale Unit, in attendance to provide support.

The crew took around five minutes from arrival to launch the boat into the flooded Mitchell River, from a site normally 400 metres from its embankment, with the assistance of the other VICSES volunteers, along with a Victoria Police officer.

Our VICSES volunteers can deploy their boats even if there is no boat ramp available, as they regularly undertake training scenarios involving a hazardous launch into floodwater.

The crew of three approached the car downriver to where it was floating, near a submerged bridge. As the occupants had taken refuge on the roof of their vehicle, the crew grabbed at them with outstretched arms to safely pull them into the craft.

Specialist VICSES volunteers can deploy from regional and metropolitan Victoria to every part of the state during large-scale emergencies, to assist local unit members as they respond to calls for help from storm and flood-affected communities.

The day before, at Tinamba, a small community near Newry, the crew being tasked by the Incident Control Centre at Bairnsdale, attended a community gathering at the local CFA Brigade. VICSES Maffra Unit volunteers were also already in attendance to advise the community of the incoming flood risk and preparedness actions required.

The crew then travelled to different parts of the flood-affected area to monitor water gauges to and upload this useful intelligence to the Snap Send Solve app, for use in real-time planning.

Having already been through floods and fires, the local unit members farewelled the visiting crew - whose deployment came to an end shortly after the rescue - before continuing their work: assisting flood-affected communities.

Our volunteers’ message is simple: never drive on flooded roads. It could be the last decision you ever make.

Keep up to date with emergency warnings with VicEmergency, or by downloading the app.

Statement attributable to VICSES Sunbury Unit volunteer and coxswain, Alan Kuras:

“If we compare this to other flood events, the first day of activity is often spent rescuing people from their homes. After that, you can spend a lot of your time rescuing people from submerged cars. So, I expected that this time as well, however VICSES had put a lot of work into warnings and door knocking before the weather event, so the local community were well-informed.”


Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) has a number of volunteer search and rescue roles, including Land Based Swift Water Rescue, Rescue Boat Crewperson, and Coxswain, with a fleet of over 80 Rescue Boats available statewide.

VICSES crews are highly-trained in the use of inflatable rescue boats that can be launched into water from any location, given boat ramps are often underwater during floods and have the ability to operate in very shallow water allowing even quicker access to people requiring help in water.

Our volunteers take part in regular simulated exercises, and work with our partner agencies, Victoria Police, Country Fire Authority, Fire Rescue Victoria, and Life Saving Victoria, across different boat rescue scenarios and exercises. 

Starting in 2014, VICSES  began delivering Land Based Swift Water Rescue training across the state, which now sees more than 300 members qualified to provide this vital service across Victoria.

Training consists of search techniques in water and punting drills where the coxswain has to take the boat from one side of the river to the other, without moving backward or forward; a difficult manoeuvre in varying flows of water.

Other training undertaken by VICSES volunteers includes lowering and raising of the anchor, beaching drills, as well as towing and recovery of other boats and what to do if your boat breaks down, including how to change a propeller.

It takes thousands of dedicated VICSES volunteers from across the state to provide emergency assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. 

Interested in becoming a VICSES volunteer? Join Us.