THREE families were spared fateful phone calls after a group of backpackers were saved by Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club members in a dramatic rescue on Park Beach.
The tourists got into strife in the surf, after trying to walk to Little Muttonbird Island on Sunday about 2pm.
Under the watchful eyes of the volunteer surf patrol - led by captain Paul Ninness and vice captain Lorenz Beckett - members of the group were pulled to safety.
The rescue of the tourists hailing from Belgium, England, the United States and Armidale happened a day before a French tourist drowned on Diggers Beach.
"Whilst it was heading towards the bottom of low tide, the large surf meant there was a lot of water and sand moving around and proved hazardous even though the water was only waist deep," Paul Ninness said.
Two 18-year-old females were washed down the beach, after getting out of their depth, 15 metres from the island.
"Two patrol members where dispatched with the aid of rescue tubes and when a 23-year-old male entered the surf to help his friends, another patrol member on a rescue board was sent to provide assistance.
The backpackers were saved about 100 metres south of the island and an IRB crew picked up the two women as the man was helped back to shore by three patrol members.
The two women were placed on oxygen and taken to hospital by Ambulance paramedics.
Particular praise has been given to recently graduated Nippers, mentored by Steve Pittman, who ran errands at the height of the drama.
"What these new and future surf lifesavers did to help really reaffirmed with senior members of the patrol, the value and the life skills gained through education, surf safety and training," Paul said.
Coffs Harbour SLSC members involved in the rescue:
Paul Ninness (capt), Lorenz Beckett (Vc & IRB crew), Jamie Marschke (IRB driver), Daniel Bannermann (rescue board), Blake Kelly & Aaron Mann (rescue tubes), Kay Joseph (first-aid officer), Rachel Smyth (Jnr club president) and Surf Rescue Certificate members Lisa Flick, Courtney Smith, Ryan Beckett, Mikayla Hutchinson and Jai Lyons, assisted by nippers Levi Bannermann (U/8), Blake Ninness (U/8), Emily Joseph (U/13) and Hannah Joseph (U/9).