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Dave Winner: Coalcliff legend needs our help!

Dave Winner is a man who needs no introduction in this part of the world. The Winners have lived in Coalcliff since 1980, when Dave and Judy moved into the village, where they raised their kids Carly and Steven and welcomed their 4 grandkids. Locally, Dave is beloved for his easygoing charm and generous character. Regionally, he is regarded as a pillar of the Illawarra Surf Lifesaving community – he is the reigning SLS NSW Patrol Captain of the Year and has been awarded Life Membership due to his many years of dedicated service. Maybe you’ve met this affable, sunburnt, gentle giant relaxing at Coalcliff Beach, working out at the gym in Helensburgh, or walking on the coastal track. Maybe he taught you First Aid, CPR, Advanced Resuscitation, Bronze Medallion or Surf Rescue Certificate during his 21 years as an educator, where his favourite saying is “I’m teaching CPR because one day, the person being saved might be me!”. Well …

On Thursday 5 August the ocean was cranking again after what seemed like weeks of being like a millpond – glassy and flat. Dave is a lifelong, all-season surfer and sea-swimmer. Most days he can be seen striding confidently into the surf, regardless of the weather. But on that day, the large, unpredictable waves caught him off-guard, swept him off the rocks and into a deep rockpool where he was knocked unconscious and failed to resurface. Dave was under the water for more than 3 minutes while witnesses on the beach rushed to his aid.

It took 5 people to retrieve him from the water and carry him to safety where he was given immediate, life-saving CPR by members of the public, including several off-duty first responders. Emergency services arrived, and more than 2 hours after leaving the water Dave was airlifted to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he remained in an induced coma for 3 days. After an agonising wait with his family by his side in the ICU, Dave regained consciousness. Unfortunately, he suffered spinal cord damage - how severe is not yet clear – and so far he only has limited movement of his limbs. The good news is that after 2 weeks, he is sitting up in bed, breathing without assistance and planning his long rehabilitation.

Despite his ordeal, Dave was lucky. On the beach that day were a number of individuals whose quick actions and first aid skills are the reason he survived. The Winner family and the 2508 community would like to thank Andrew Massey, Damian Lloyd, Harry Balaskas, Jim Dalmer, Kane Faust, Luke Dalton, Luke Morgan, Mitchell Loveday, Roger Blairs, Tim Lloyd and Yaan Keller Bergmann as well as NSW Ambulance Service, NSW Police, Scarborough Fire Brigade, Toll Helicopter and any others involved.

A fundraiser has been set up to help Dave’s family with the costs of his treatment and rehabilitation. To donate, go to and search for ‘Dave Winner’s Rehabilitation Fund’. Let’s help get Dave back on his feet and doing what he loves most – teaching others to save lives.

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