The formation of the Southern Peninsula Rescue Squad was prompted by the disappearance of Harold Holt from Cheviot Beach 50 years ago. This tragic accident along with the steady increase in boating incidents on Port Phillip Bay, highlighted the lack of emergency equipment on the then isolated Mornington Peninsula.
‘Mornington Peninsula Emergency Group’ was formed in 1967 utilising a donated delivery van and equipment such as ropes as well as borrowed boats.
In 1970 the group became formally incorporated and the ‘Southern Peninsula Rescue Squad’ was born.
Since its humble beginnings the Squad has grown into a well respected marine search and rescue organisation.
During its early days the SPRS had an agreement with Jayrow helicopters to utilise a Bell 47 helicopter contracted to fly newspapers to the peninsula for searches when not otherwise being used.
This proved very successful and following a fundraising campaign the SPRS purchased its own Bell 47 J model helicopter for search and rescue purposes.
Demand for the squad’s services quickly grew and a more powerful helicopter was needed to perform more complex rescues, this prompted the purchase of a turbine engine Bell 206B Jetranger. This aircraft was again upgraded to the larger Bell 206L-3 Longranger.
The SPRS was also affiliated with the State Emergency Service (SES) for many years, providing Road Accident Rescue and Storm Damage Services. A separate SES unit was eventually formed in Sorrento and took over providing these functions leaving the SPRS to concentrate on its core role or air and sea rescue. Throughout this time various boats, communications and other equipment were purchased and upgraded enabling the Squad to maintain the high standard that it has become known for.
In December 2007 the Squad celebrated 40 years of service to the community. Members from the early years joined current crew to celebrate this milestone.
The SPRS rescue helicopter service operated from Sorrento for 34 years. It began at a time when no other such service existed, and played a vital role in community safety.
In addition to its search and rescue role, the SPRS helicopter became somewhat of a tourist attraction in Sorrento. Hundreds of people visited the helipad each year to sit in it, have photos taken with it and to see it in action.
The high standard of training provided to SPRS helicopter crew assisted a number of young people to gain employment in the helicopter industry. It also provided wonderful experiences for many sick, disabled and disadvantaged children and provided years of support to local life saving clubs.
As the Police Airwing and Air Ambulance fleet of helicopters grew, the need for the SPRS rescue helicopter service diminished and in 2010 the decision was made to sell the helicopter and concentrate on building up the Squad’s already successful rescue boat operation.
Over the years, the SPRS has operated a number of different rescue boats and in 2001 purchased its first purpose built vessel, a New Zealand built 7.53 metre Stabicraft. The “Stabi” as it was affectionately known was taken out of service and sold in June 2013.
In December 2011, the SPRS took delivery of a 10m Naiad fitted out with the latest in GPS, Radar and Infrared technology. This vessel can be seen at its permanent berth at the Blairgowrie Marina.
In July 2014, SPRS added to its fleet with the delivery of a second Naiad. This 7.5 vessel was fitted out with the same state-of-art equipment allowing our crew to move between vessels without the need for additional training. Both Naiad’s were built in Western Australia by Kirby Marine. For more information about these vessels go to the equipment tab on this website.