Bondi Rescue's darkest day: "Sometimes we just can’t be there for everybody".

It’s been two months since Bondi Rescue’s darkest day and the lifeguards at Bondi Beach are still struggling to comes to terms with it.

On that day two tourists got into trouble in the Bondi surf, and one man drowned, while a woman was left critically injured.

“As much as we try and try, sometimes we just can’t be there for everybody,” says lifeguard veteran Rod “Kerrbox” Kerr on an episode of Bondi Rescue airing on Anzac Day.

During the episode, those involved speak about what’s been described as the most serious rescue at Bondi in over 70 years.

bondi rescue's darkest day
“This has got to be the worst thing I have ever seen as a lifeguard,” says Jethro James. Image via Channel Ten.

The lifeguards talk through the desperate struggle to get the two unconscious Norwegian tourists out of the water and the fight to revive them back on the sand.


It was just after 4.30pm when Jethro James, on duty in the tower, spotted trouble in Bondi’s infamous “Backpackers” rip, and sent his fellow lifeguards - Trent 'Singlets' Falson and Corey Oliver - into the water.

“I just saw this cluster of people right out the back of 'Backpackers' where the surfers were and it didn’t look good at all,” Falson says.

“I couldn’t see the patients on the way out. And then I remember coming over the last wave and what I saw next absolutely shocked me to the core.”

Back in the tower, James could see about five swimmers in trouble, including a woman floating on her back.

“Hopefully, it’s not as bad as it looks”, he said into the radio.

“It’s our one job down here to get everyone home and safe out of the water but sometimes our best just isn’t good enough. But it hurts ... a lot.” Image via Channel Ten.

But as Falson began dragging the unconscious woman onto his rescue board, while frantically signalling towards the tower, the situation worsened.

“Singlets was screaming at me to come and help him and then I heard on the megaphone, ‘I think there’s someone else who’s just as bad, hey’, and I had to paddle over the crest of one of two more little waves. And then I just saw a person face-down,” says Oliver.

The two lifeguards were dealing with two unconscious tourists, plus other swimmers who were quickly getting into trouble in the rip.

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Although more lifeguards swam out to help, Falson was left on his own to rescue the unconscious woman.

“When the other lifeguards paddled to the other patients I was just like ‘how am I gonna manage this ... there’s no-one to help?” he says.

“I just thought I’m gonna have to draw on every little bit of skill, every little bit of training to get this woman in because there really is no other option.”


As Falson struggled to get the woman on his board and back onto the shore, his fellow lifeguard Oliver was in a similar situation with the unconscious man.

bondi rescue's darkest day
The man died and his wife was left in a critical condition. Image via Channel Ten.

“Usually there’s a bit of colour in someone who’s unconscious but mate, this was just straight-up really bad,” he says.

While the lifeguards were struggling to get their unconscious patients to the sand, they were being pounded by wave after wave.


“There were just constant little waves just like ... chipping away ... that were just making it harder and harder and harder,” says Oliver.

And once they got to the shore, the rescue effort continued as the lifeguards frantically started CPR on the two unconscious swimmers, who they would later find out were husband and wife.

“We’d been doing CPR for I reckon 20 to 25 minutes and it didn’t seem like it was getting better,” Falson remembers.

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“Singlets and I just weren’t giving up and then out of nowhere he (the paramedic) says, ‘Hey boys, I think I’m getting a faint electrical activity’,” says Kerr.

“Next minute we hear ... ‘there’s a pulse come back’. I looked at Singlets ... ‘Oh my god, we’ve got her back’.”

However, CPR failed to revive her husband.

“Over the years we’ve had successful rescues and situations, and mate, it’s surreal having someone die at your hands," Oliver says.

“It’s our one job down here to get everyone home and safe out of the water but sometimes our best just isn’t good enough. But it hurts ... a lot.”

Bondi Rescue airs on Tuesday, April 25 at 7.30pm on Channel Ten