On Monday 24th July, Kalya Kandegoda Gamage from Sri Lanka was awarded the 2022 Mountbatten Medal, for saving the life of his younger brother.
The Mountbatten Medal is awarded annually for the most gallant rescue or rescue attempt undertaken in the previous year, by an individual who has taken Royal Life Saving Society training, or holds or has held a lifesaving award delivered by a Royal Life Saving Society Member Organisation. The rescue or rescue attempt must be made by a citizen from a Commonwealth Nation, but can be undertaken in any country throughout the world.
In August 2022, Kalya, who was only 13 at the time, was spending time with his family on remote Chrystalls Beach, south of Dunedin, New Zealand. He was paddling at the shoreline with his younger brother Kithmi, aged 11, when a large wave crashed into Kithmi and caused him to lose his footing, and the tide carried him out to sea. At this point, Kalya turned to his mum and said ‘OK Mum, I’m going out. I might not be back’ and then he dived into the waves, which on that day were approximately 3 metres high. By now Kithmi was approximately 60 metres from the shore, and becoming very cold, as the water temperature was about 10 degrees. Kalya drew on the RLSS lifesaving training he had undertaken in his home country of Sri Lanka, and swam out and rescued his brother, and managed to get him back to shore before the emergency services arrived.
To honour his courage, a special assembly was held at Kalya’s school, at which the Mayor of Clutha read an opening address, and Marie Baker and Judi Jessop from RLSS New Zealand presented Kalya with his award. The assembly was also attended by representatives from the local Police, Fire and Ambulance services, who attended the rescue on the day, and the rescue Helicopter Otago made a special landing in the school grounds.
If you know someone who should be recognised for a rescue attempt, you can find more information on our Awards and how to nominate on our website: RLSS Honours and Awards – Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth (rlsscommonwealth.org)