The Royal Humane Society of Australia

Press Releases




on Tuesday 15 December 2015
at Government House, Melbourne
at 11.00am
Media arrival from 10.30am – 10.50am

Twenty-Nine people of Victoria will be presented with bravery awards of The Royal Humane Society of Australasia.

The Society awards – 5 Silver Medals, 7 Bronze Medals and 17 Certificates of Merit - will be presented by The Honourable Linda Dessau AM, Governor of Victoria.

Awards recognize rescues from:

  • assault and armed assailants
  • car accidents
  • an aviation accident
  • burning houses
  • rescues from the sea

Details of the rescues are attached.

Upon arrival, media will be escorted to a dedicated area in the State Drawing Room which provides an excellent vantage point to observe official proceedings. Members of the media are required to stay inside the allocated area until the conclusion of official proceedings.



To receive the Certificate of Merit


n going to the rescue of two women from drowning at “The Flume” beach, Warrnambool on 12 March 2013.

Two off-duty police officers, Snr Consts McRae and Wheeler and Mr Anson were surfing at “The Flume”. “The Flume” is a well known surfing beach which drops off into deep water quickly and is renowned for its breaking waves and strong rip.

Two women were swimming when they became trapped in the rip and they started to scream and raised their arms into the air to attract attention.

Both Snr Consts McRae and Wheeler went to help the women and Snr Const Wheeler helped one woman onto a board.

Snr Const McRae reached the second woman and helped her get to float on her back and held the woman’s hand and tried to keep her afloat and calm.

Mr Anson then entered the water on a bigger board and swam to Const McRae and was able to take the drowning woman back to the shore.

(Snr Const McRae and Mr Anson received their awards at a ceremony last year)


To receive the Silver Medal


of Corio, Vic in going to the rescue of three people from a crashed and burning 4WD at Balliang East, Vic on 2 October 2012.

At 11.00am Mr Pearse was travelling along the Geelong-Bacchus Marsh Road when he observed in the distance a two car held-on collision where the driver of a sedan had crossed onto the wrong side of the road and collided with a 4WD that was towing a boat. After the collision the 4WD rolled over and landed on its roof on the side of the road.

Mr Pearse heard a woman calling for help and saw her trapped upside down in the front passenger seat. A small fire was starting near the alternator and fuel was running along the driver’s side of the vehicle.

The trapped woman told Mr Pearse to get a knife from the towed boat and he used one of them to cut the woman’s seat belt. The woman fell onto the roof of the car and Mr Pearse dragged her out of the vehicle.

Mr Pearse noticed a baby capsule in the back seat and he went to the rear passenger door and reached inside the broken window but discovered that the capsule was empty. He noticed that someone else was hanging upside down in the rear passenger seat and so he ran to the tailgate and crawled inside and shook the seat but was unable to move it. He took hold of the trapped person’s wrist and could feel no pulse.

The car became engulfed in flames and Mr Pearse was forced to move away and he was taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation.

Sadly the driver and the back seat passenger died in the accident.


To receive the Certificate of Merit

3. ADAM SMITH, of Greeensborough, Vic, and

4. JAMES DODGE, of Carrum Downs, Vic, in going to the rescue of a driver from a crashed and burning car at Somerville, Vic on 24 July 2013.

At 12.20am a car being driven on the Frankston-Flinders Road a high speed hit a ditch and became airborne, clipped trees and finally came to rest in the front yard of a private property.

Tenants of the property, Messrs Smith and Dodge heard the collision and went to assist. They saw that the vehicle’s engine bay was on fire and they immediately pulled the driver out of the vehicle from the passenger side door and placed him on his back to limit his neck/back movement until the ambulance arrived. They then doused the vehicle in water to extinguish the fire.


To receive the Certificate of Merit


in going to the rescue of the driver of a crashed and burning car at Portarlington, Vic on 7 December 2012.

A speeding motorist collided into the right side of another car, travelled across a south bound lane, through a boundary fence and finally came to rest in a dry creek bed down an embankment.

Messrs Hans and Nijjer who had early been passed on the road by the speed motorist saw smoke coming from the southern side of the road and they immediately stopped their vehicle.

Messrs Hans and Nijjer ran towards the crash site and heard a woman screaming for help and they saw the crashed car about 4m down from the road in a ditch against trees and bushes on a large slope. They could see smoke coming from the engine area of the car.

Both men went down the steep slope and saw that the driver had moved into the left rear seat area as there were flames coming from the front of the car. They tried to open the left hand side doors but they were jammed. The right hand side doors were inaccessible due to the car being embedded in trees and bushes.

A piece of broken drainage pipe was found and Mr Hans told the driver to turn her face away from the window and then he broke the4 window with the piece of pipe. Both men reached into the car and lifted the driver out.

Mr Hans carried the badly injured driver up to the road level and placed her on the grass. Shortly afterwards the car exploded and became totally engulfed in flames.

(Mr Nijjer was unable to attend the ceremony)


To receive the Certificate of Merit

6. SHAUN BLOOMFIELD, of Balmoral, Vic,

7. SAMUEL YOUNG, of Irrewarra, Vic, and

8. ANDREW PAYNE, in going to the rescue of a man and his son from drowning at Yambuk Beach, Port Fairy, Vic on 13 January 2014.

At 7.00pm a boy and his step mother went for a swim and both were caught in a rip. The woman was able to swim back to the beach but the boy continued to drift further from the shore.

The father saw his son was in difficulty and swam out to save him and also became caught in the rip and they were both swept approximately 300m offshore. Messrs Bloomfield and Young were alerted to the situation and immediately entered the water and swam to the man and his son.

Leading Senior Constable Payne arrived shortly afterwards and swam approximately 200m and assisted Messrs Bloomfield and Young in rescuing the father and son who were brought to shore safely.

At the time the swimming conditions were challenging with easterly winds up to 20 knots, and 1-1.5m waves


To receive the Bronze Medal and the 2015 Rupert Wilks Trophy for the most outstanding act of bravery by a child 12 years or younger

9. ABIGAIL WATSON, aged 10 years, of Point Cook, Vic

To receive the Certificate of Merit

10. LEIGH MILLOTT, of Kurunjang, Vic in going to the rescue of a father and son from drowning at Apollo Bay, Vic on 27 January 2014.

At 1.20pm a boy was swimming by himself in waist deep water approximately 20-30m from the shoreline. Conditions were described as warm and sunny with light to moderate winds. There was an offshore current, low tide and moderate swell. The boy was caught in a rip and dragged in excess of 100m offshore in water over 2m deep.

Ms Nielsen who was swimming nearly with a surfboard swan over to assist and put the boy onto her board but they both continued to be pulled out further to sea. Ms Nielsen called out for assistance from the boy’s family.

The boy’s sister Abigail, grabbed a surfboard and entered the water and began making her way to where Ms Nielsen and her brother were trying to stay afloat. After struggling for a short time, Ms Nielsen was able to make it back to shallower water that she could stand up in with Abigail and her brother.

Ms Nielsen was exhausted and made her way back to shore while Abigail and her brother continued to hold onto Abigail’s surfboard as they were dragged out to sea again by the rip.

Abigail’s mother and father entered the water to help. Abigail’s mother reached the two children first, followed by her husband. They all struggled in the water before their mother was able to help Abigail and her brother in paddling the surfboard back to shallower water and then to shore.

Abigail’s father however was trapped in the rip, dropping under the water line, swallowing water and struggling to breath. Abigail swam out and tried to keep him afloat.

Mr Millott also swam out to help and told Abigail and her father to try and swim sideways to the edge of the rip which they did. Mr Milott reached the father and dragged him back to shore where he was placed in the recovery position and given first aid.

Abigail also made her way back to the shore safely.

(Ms Nielsen is unable to attend the ceremony)


To receive the Bronze Medal

11. KEITH PICONE of Healesville, Vic, in going to the rescue of a woman trapped in a crashed and burning car at Coldstream, Vic on 21 February 2007.

At 6.40pm an offset head-on collision occurred with one car coming to rest on a 45 degree angle in the middle of the road with the driver injured and trapped. The other car was on its passenger side, trapping the front seat passenger and driver. It was leaking flammable liquids and a fire had started in the engine bay.

Mr Picone ran to the car on fire and saw that the rear hatch had popped open. He pulled out the back seat and climbed in via the rear hatch. He saw a may lying on the passenger door which was on the ground and checked for a pulse and realised that the man was deceased.

Mr Picone noticed that the driver was moaning and saying that she couldn’t breathe. The dashboard was 50cm form her chest and the seat belt was drawn tightly across her chest. Mr Picone supported her head from underneath so she could breathe more easily.

He yelled out to others to get a knife so he could cut the seat belt. His wife obtained a knife and handed it to him and once he cut the seat belt the woman’s breathing improved. Mr Picone stayed with the woman and supported her body and neck until the SES arrived to cut the roof off the car and take the woman to hospital.


To receive the Bronze Medal

12. ISHAN WICKRAMATHUNGA, of Wheelers Hill, in going to the rescue of the staff of a takeaway restaurant from an armed assailant in Mulgrave, Vic on 12 November 2012.

At 12.30am Messrs Fernando and Wickramathunga were in a takeaway restaurant when an armed offender with a sawn off bolt action rifle wearing gloves and a balaclava over his head entered the store. The offender approached the counter and pointed the firearm at the male manager behind the counter and demanded the cash from all the cash registers.

He then approached Messrs Fernando and Wickramathunga and pointed the gun at them, demanding their wallets which they gave to the offender. The offender then ordered both men to get down on their knees.

The offender commenced to remove cash from the till tray and bent down to place the cash into a bag on the floor. Whilst he was bending down Mr Fernando took the opportunity to approach the accused from behind and tackled him to the ground with the help of Mr Wickramathunga who threw the firearm out of reach. Other staff then came around the counter and assisted in subduing the accused.

The offender continued to struggle violently until the police arrived and took him into custody.


(Mr Fernando could not attend the ceremony)

To receive the Certificate of Merit

13. CRAIG OXLEY, of Newcomb, Vic, and

14. DAVID ROBERTSON, of Newcomb, in going to the rescue of an elderly man from his burning home at Newcomb on 29 April 2013.

At 12.30am nearby residents were woken by the smell of smoke and noticed it was coming from the roof of an elderly resident’s home.

He was joined by Mr Oxley who help to drag the man out of the house through the front door and out onto the nature strip.

Sadly the elderly residentl died shortly after arriving at hospital.


To receive the Certificate of Merit

15. SANDRO LUIGI AGNOLETTO, of Strathdale, Vic

16. LUCAS WADE BALDWIN, of Sedgwick, Vic, and

17. DECLAN JESSIE BURNETT, of Junortoun, Vic, in going to the rescue of the driver and passenger of a crashed and burning car at Spring Gully, Vic on 12 April 2013.

At 11.40pm the driver of a car veered across the road and crashed into a tree. The tree caught fire and a small fire started on the right hand side of the car.

Mr Agnoletto stopped his car and ran to the driver’s side and tried to pull the driver out of the car but his legs were trapped. Another driver, Mr Baldwin then arrived to help pull the driver out and both men dragged him away from the vehicle as the fire started to grow.

Mr Agnoletto saw that there was a passenger also trapped in the car and he tried to force both the passenger door and window open but without success and ran back to his car to obtain a jack.

Mr Burnett then arrived on the scene to help. Mr Baldwin smashed the passenger side window with the jack and all three men managed to free the passenger who was semi-conscious and weighted in excess of 100kg away from the car which shortly afterwards was totally engulfed in flames.


To receive the Bronze Medal

18. BLAKE TOMADA, of Dumbalk, Vic, and,

19. CALEB BOUCHER, aged 16 years, of Cape Paterson, Vic, in going to the rescue of two boys from drowning at “The Oak’s” near Inverloch, Vic on 19 October 2013.

At 12.45pm Messrs Tomada and Boucher were on some rocks with friends near an area known as the “Blowhole”. Conditions at the time were described as warm and windy. The waves were choppy and there was a large swell.

They were hit by a very large wave and two of their friends were pulled into the sea and were pushed underwater by the waves. Mr Tomada moved onto a rock close to where one of his friends was in the water and as a wave pushed the man towards him, Mr Tomada grabbed him and pulled him out of the water and onto the rocks, suffering from cuts and abrasions.

Mr Boucher approached the edge of the rocks and helped the injured man to cross a channel and they both slowly made their way around the rocks to shore. Mr Boucher also received cuts and abrasions whilst helping the man to shore.

The other man was found shortly afterwards but sadly was not able to be resuscitated.


To receive the Silver Medal

20. GRAHAM GEORGE DRAGE, of Warracknabeal, Vic,

21. ANDREW PHILLIP WILLSMORE, of Underbool, Vic, and,

22. RODNEY EDWARD SHEARER, of Barnadown, Vic, in going to the rescue of three men from a crashed and burning aircraft at Barnadown on 29 October 2012.

At 1.00pm Messrs Drage and Willsmore had landed their light aircraft at a private airstrip located at Barnadown. Just after taxing their aircraft to the main hangar, they observed a Cessna 72 aircraft coming in to land on the private airstrip. The aircraft landed “short” and collided with power-lines and subsequently crashed to the ground. The aircraft landed upside down, with the front of it pointing from where it had come from and immediately burst into flames. The fire was coming from two sources, both in front and behind the wing. The fuel tanks were in the wings.

Mr Shearer, the owner of the airstrip quickly ran to the scene with a fire extinguisher, kicked out the Perspex in the back quarter window and sprayed the extinguisher into the aircraft. One of the passengers was then able to crawl out of the window on his hands and knees away from the aircraft.

Messrs Drage and Willsmore ran to the burning plane where Mr Willsmore helped the injured passenger to move further away from aircraft.

Mr Willsmore ran to the left side of the aircraft near the tail and could see another man upside down in the cockpit, hanging suspended in his seat belt. Mr Willsmore desperately tried to open the door but it was locked. The front window of the plane had broken and so Mr Willsmore reached into the cockpit to try and drag the man out unsuccessfully. The man’s head was amongst the flames so Mr Willsmore dashed back to the hangar and returned with a small piece of matting which he put above the man’s head to protect him from the flames.

Mr Willsmore then pulled on the man’s legs and managed to pull them through the broken fron window. Mr Drage then came to help him and lent into the cockpit and undid the man’s seatbelt. They both dragged him from the aircraft and away from the smoke, heat and flames.

Messrs Drage and Willsmore returned to the aircraft to help the remaining man but were unable to as the plane was totally engulfed in flames.

Mr Willsmore received minor burns to his arms which were treated at the scene by ambulance staff.


To receive the Bronze Medal

23. JOHN HYDES, of Point Cook, Vic, in going to the rescue of two children from their burning home at Point Cook on 10 September 2011.

At 11.00pm Mr Hydes heard screaming from a nearby house and rushed outside to find a woman yelling that her children were trapped inside their burning home.

Mr Hydes entered the burning house in bare feet and crawled through the house until he located the children in a bedroom. However he had to crawl back out of the house as the walls started to collapse.

Mr Hydes, once back outside the house, smashed the children’s bedroom window and pulled them to safety.


To receive the Certificate of Merit

24. ROBERT JAMES MURRELL, of Colac, Vic,

25. RODNEY MURRELL, of Bedford, WA, in going to the apprehension of an armed assailant who had threatened a number of people with a knife at Ascot Vale, Vic on 29 September 2008.

At 10.30am a man committed an armed robbery at the Ascot Vale post office where he jumped the counter, grabbed the male attendant by the arm, pointed a knife with a 20cm blade at him and made demands for money. The male attendant opened the till and handed the assailant some money. The assailant ran off down the road and attempted to steal a taxi by pointing the knif at the driver. The taxi driver was able to drive around the assailant and drove away.

The armed assailant then approached a man in a stationary vehicle with a young child in the rear seat. He pointed the knife at the man and made demands that he wanted the car. The driver was able to push the armed assailant away from the car and drove off.

Messrs Robert & Rodney Murrell and Mr Usher saw the assailant running along the footpath and approach a woman driver who was stationary at a set of lights with the driver’s window down. The assailant placed the knife against the woman’s throat and made demands that he hand over her vehicle. Messrs Murrell and Usher all yelled at the woman to drive off. The yelling resulted in the assailant focussing his attention on the three men and the woman was able to drive away but was forced to stop after a short distance due to traffic congestion. The assailant ran towards where the woman in the car had again stopped and all three men yelled at her to keep driving which she did.

The assailant then started to run towards some housing commission flats with Messrs Murrell and Usher in pursuit, warning people that the man had a knife.

Mr Peterson heard a lot of screaming and came out from a house and was warned by Mr Robert Murrell that the assailant had a knife. Mr Peterson joined in the chase until the armed assailant, exhausted, stopped at some housing commission flats and told the men to take the money and to let him go.

In fear for her own and others safety Mr Robert Murrell threw a block fo concrete at the assailant which hit him above his right eye. The assailant started to collapse and Mr Peterson ran and grabbed him. Mr Robert Murrell went to help and both men pulled the assailant chest down onto the ground until the police arrived.

(Mr Usher will be presented with his award at a ceremony to be held at Government House, Adelaide)

(Unfortunately Mr Peterson was unable to attend the ceremony)


To receive the Certificate of Merit

26. COREY JOHN ZARTH, of Cranbourne North, Vic, in going to the rescue of a mother and baby from a crashed and burning car at Aratula, Qld on 14 November 2013.

At 9.20pm a woman with her 9 month old baby in the back seat was driving along the Cunningham Highway to her mother-in-law’s house. She started to slow down on the highway as she approached a driveway to make a right hand turn and came to a complete stop.

A prime mover towing two Krueger trailers in B double configuration was behind the woman’s car. As the car came to a complete stop the truck crashed into the woman’s car and came to rest on the driver’s compartment and both vehicles caught fire. The truck driver was able to get out of his vehicle but the woman and baby were trapped.

Other truck drivers came across the scene of the accident and went to help. Mr Zarth ran over to the vehicle with Mr Morrison. Mr Zarth opened the left hand rear door and noticed a baby trapped into a harness. Mr Morrison reached in and took the baby out of the burning car.

Mr Hird also stopped to help and went to the passenger side of the car and saw the trapped driver. The door was jammed and very hot due to the fire so Messrs Zarth and Hird used fire extinguishers to try and put the fire out.

Both the truck and car became totally engulfed in flames and all three men had to move away and sadly the driver of the car died at the scene.

(Messrs Morrison and Hird will receive their awards at an investiture in Brisbane)


To receive the Bronze Medal

26. CRAIG ROBERT PHILLIPS, of Maldon, Vic, in going to the rescue of a man from a crashed and burning car at Maldon on 21 February 2015.

At 7.05pm an elderly man lost control of his vehicle which careered off the road and down an embankment and caught fire.

Mr Phillips whilst driving came across the scene of the accident and stopped. He saw flames around the front of the car and could hear popping sounds from under the bonnet. He looked in the window and saw an elderly man trapped.

Mr Phillips opened the door and reached into the car, untangled the man’s arm from the seatbelt and pulled him up out of the car. By this time flames were coming up over the passenger side window. Mr Phillips got the man into an upright position and the man wrapped his arm around Mr Phillips’ shoulder and they both walked away from the burning car.


To receive the Silver Medal

28. BRYAN WILLIAM ELLIS, of Colbinabbin, Vic, and

To receive the Certificate of Merit

29. PAUL MORGAN, of Colbinabbin, in going to the rescue of the occupants of a crashed and burning car at Burrmaboot, Vic on 8 March 2014.

AT 9.45pm there was a head-on collision between two vehicles when one car veered onto the incorrect side of the road and a fire from the two vehicles was subsequently ignited. There were two people in one vehicle and five occupants in the other vehicle.

Mr Ellis observed a fire from his kitchen window and went to the scene. He saw two badly injured people lying on the road and a vehicle on fire with a person in the back seat. The flames were 6-8m high and had spread to an adjacent paddock.

Mr Ellis saw that the trapped man was unconscious and his leg was broken. He pulled the man out of the car through the rear passenger door which was open and placed him on the road, close to the burning car.

Mr Morgan arrived on a tractor and blocked part of the road to avoid any further accidents. He saw Mr Ellis pull the trapped man from the rear driver’s side of the car and he ran over to help him move the injured man 10-15m further away to safety.

Mr Ellis went around to the driver’s side of the car to help the trapped driver and levered the door open with a crowbar. He tried to undo the man’s seatbelt but the heat and flames form the passenger side were too hot and he could hear cans exploding and the burning plastic in the car created fumes that were very strong. Mr Ellis put his hand on the driver’s neck to check for a pulse and couldn’t feel one. He stepped back from the car and within seconds the whole car became engulfed in flames.

Sadly the drivers and front passengers in both vehicles died at the scene.