‘MUM... I HAVE TO GO AND SAVE HIM’

In­stinct took over when a 15-year-old girl aban­doned her walk along the beach with her mum to save a man kilo­me­tres off­shore

Daily Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - Luke Mor­timer luke.mor­timer@dai­ly­mer­cury.com.au

ANNA Black has spent most of her young life learn­ing how to save lives in the water.

The Sa­rina Beach Life­sav­ing Club young­ster from Grasstree Beach never ex­pected she’d have to put years of Nip­pers train­ing into prac­tice.

But, while the 16-year-old was en­joy­ing a birth­day walk along Grasstree Beach with her mum Sally, she spot­ted a ca­noe cap­size sev­eral kilo­me­tres off­shore.

Dash­ing to her mum’s car to re­trieve a phone to call for help, Anna re­turned to find the man in se­ri­ous trou­ble --flail­ing about in the surf, strug­gling to stay afloat.

Her in­stincts kicked in and Anna was away, bolt­ing into the surf without a sec­ond thought for her own safety, while her mum stood on the beach, wor­ried.

“I was like ‘Mum, I’m go­ing to have to go save him’ and she was like ‘Anna, just re­mem­ber if you swim out try and stay away so he doesn’t pull you un­der’,” Anna ex­plained.

“Mum was re­ally con­cerned when I jumped in. I swam about 2km out into the water, he’d been about 3km out, and he’d al­ready swam about a kilo­me­tre to me, and we even­tu­ally met up and swam back in.”

Anna kept a close eye on the man, about in his early 20s, urg­ing him on as he strug­gled back to shore, ready to help should his head go un­der.

“And then he al­most face-planted when we got back on the beach, be­cause he was so ex­hausted,” Anna con­tin­ued. “We sat him up and waited for the am­bu­lance to ar­rive.”

The man was taken to hos­pi­tal to re­cover, af­ter in­gest­ing a lot of sea­wa­ter.

Anna said re­count­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence was sur­real, par­tic­u­larly be­cause she had felt like she was op­er­at­ing on au­topi­lot at the time, and act­ing on in­stincts.

“It was all adren­a­line. I just had to get out there as fast as pos­si­ble,” she said.

The Sa­rina State High School stu­dent, who’s been a Nip­per for as long as she can re­mem­ber, re­ceived a visit from the grate­ful sur­vivor af­ter he was re­leased from hos­pi­tal.

“He came back and gave us flow­ers and choco­lates and that sort of thing, thanked me for sav­ing his life. It was re­ally sweet,” Anna smiled.

The teenager re­ceived a Life­sav­ing Ex­cel­lence Award on Sun­day, in front of a crowd of Nip­pers and club mem­bers at Sa­rina Beach, for her ef­forts.

Though, Anna de­scribed it as all “a bit crazy” and noted she wasn’t one to chase the spot­light.

Anna’s mum Sally and dad John said they were ex­tremely proud of their daugh­ter’s self­less re­sponse, while Sa­rina SLSC pres­i­dent Neil John said Anna was a great ex­am­ple why Nip­pers train­ing can be so ben­e­fi­cial.

If you’d like to join a surf life sav­ing club in the Mackay re­gion, check out sur­flife­sav­ing.com.au.

❝ It was all adren­a­line. I just had to get out there as fast as pos­si­ble.

PHOTO: LUKE MOR­TIMER

HON­OURED: Grasstree Beach's Anna Black, 16, from Sa­rina Surf Life­sav­ing Club re­ceived a Life­sav­ing Ex­cel­lence Award for sav­ing a man who was in se­ri­ous trou­ble af­ter his ca­noe cap­sized sev­eral kilo­me­tres from shore.

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