Air Force, Army and Navy personnel have been awarded commendations for their efforts to rescue refugees from a boat.

The honour is in recognition of the personnel who acted quickly when an explosion blew more than forty people into the water.

Alex Rappel reports.

[flashvideo file= /]


Twelve monthes ago, Navy, Army and Air Force service men and women came to the rescue of the vessel, which exploded off Ashmore Reef with 59 people on board.

While the explosion claimed the lives of five Afghan refugees and injured countless others, every person pulled out of the water is still alive today.

This morning in Amberley, Australian Defense Force commendations were awarded to Leading Aircraftman Adam Hayes and Leading Aircraftwoman Katherine Weeks of the Royal Australian Air Force for aiding in the rescue and medical treatment of the asylum seekers.

Air Commadore Chris Sawade, RAAF: “The team that was there at the time displayed incredible courage, empathy, and I guess professionalism in how they went about the post-explosion activities.”

Kate Weeks, RAAF: “It’s really nice to receive some recognition for what we did, but basically at the end of the day we were just doing our job.”

A total of 51 commendations are being awarded for this single incident, with four of these reserved for service men and women here at Amberley.

A coronial inquest into the incident found three Afghan asylum seekers had poured petrol on the boat and ignited it in an attempt to sabotage their return to Indonesia.

According to the Australian Defence Association, Navy and Cutoms personnel are employing knife proof vests and carrying more firearms when boarding vessels to minimise possible dangers when dealing with asylum seekers.

Thankfully in the case of the SIEV 36 explosion, the situation was swiftly dealt with.

Adam Haynes, RAAF: “With our actions that day, I think we saved a lot of lives.”

Alex Rappel, QUT News