Brave teens to the rescue

March 14, 2018

Heroes: Grace Creenaune and Erica Montgomery holding the floatation devices they used to save a man from drowning in Lake Mulwala behind the Tourist Information Centre last week.

Two teenagers have been nominated for bravery awards after rescuing a man from drowning in Lake Mulwala last week.

Aquazone Lake Mulwala lifesavers Grace Creenaune, 17, from Barooga, and Erica Montgomery, 15, from St James, were working at the water park about 4.30pm on Tuesday, March 7, when they suddenly had to put their skills to work.

‘‘We were just sitting in the office here when two men came up and bought a ticket, but then we saw them drinking and we aren’t able to have them on the park under the influence of alcohol, so we gave them a refund,’’ Grace said.

‘‘They then went over to the other side of the bridge ... suddenly the 30-year-old man was back saying ‘my friend’s drowning, I need your help’.’’

The two men from Queensland, who are believed to be of New Zealand descent, were part of a group of tourists staying in Mulwala, unaware of the dangers the lake can produce.

However, the girls faced their own hurdles in the rescue attempt.

The office door was jammed, so they had to jump out the window before running across the road and jumping over the fence of the Melbourne St bridge to reach the struggling man.

‘‘Grace went straight over while I grabbed a floatation device and followed her just in case,’’ Erica said.

‘‘By the time we were within 5m of him he was completely under and then when we got him to shore it was hard to get him out because we physically had to lift him.

‘‘We waited for the paramedics to get there in case he had some other injury, but they still told us to do it, so his uncle and cousin hopped in and helped us get him out.’’

The girls stabilised the man, 19, in shallow water by holding a floatation device under his neck to keep his head above water.

‘‘He was going in and out of consciousness the whole time but he was breathing, so we didn’t need to perform CPR, which was lucky,’’ Grace said.

‘‘When it all happened, we had no time to think about it all because it needed to be done and the adrenaline just kicked in.

‘‘Thinking back on it, it is fairly overwhelming and crazy, but we did what we had to do.’’

Both girls said the lifesaving course they completed in November and additional training they received from an experienced co-worker over the past few months gave them the confidence and knowledge to stay calm in the situation and know what actions to take.

‘‘One of our old team members, Shaun, instigated a team training program two or three times a week where he would get the team out and get them skilling, swimming, reacting fast to situations and climbing on to the park,’’ Aquazone manager Deb North said.

‘‘He would put them in scenarios where they would be potentially expected to save somebody, because he went out one day and struggled and then worried our team wouldn’t be able to support a patron.

‘‘From that, he instigated the training program which has only just ended, but our intention now is to have that as part of our employment standard for next year.’’

Senior Constable Russell Welsh said he nominated the girls for a bravery award to recognise the efforts they went to to save the man.

He said it was also a perfect example of the importance of water safety.

‘‘We don’t want see these sorts of incidents occur, especially when they have taken place out of stupidity, but it just shows the importance of water safety and knowing first aid as well as people knowing not to jump off bridges, as it is actually an offence and you can be in trouble with the police,’’ Sen Const Welsh said.

‘‘There was also a bit of alcohol involved, but we can’t determine how much. However, we would like locals especially to take into consideration that alcohol and water don’t mix at all.’’

Senior Constable Welsh reminded people not to go into any type of waterways alone as it could be extremely dangerous.

‘‘That’s also a big problem here that once they go down they could go anywhere,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s zero visibility in that water once you’re even an inch below the surface.

‘‘Even though it’s the lake, there is a strong current there that some people underestimate.’’

The man was taken to Northeast Health in Wangaratta for observation and was released the next day after being cleared of any major injuries.

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