Hero­ics in Hawai­ian rag­ing river recog­nised

Great Southern Herald - - Front Page - Saskia Adysti

Wa­gin’s Jen Ban­ner­man has been hailed a hero af­ter sav­ing the lives of a fam­ily swept into a river in Hawaii.

Jen Ban­ner­man’s mother said she was of­ten scared by her daugh­ter’s su­per­hero com­plex, so it came as no sur­prise when she wit­nessed her risk­ing her life four times to help a fam­ily across a rag­ing river in Hawaii.

Jen Ban­ner­man, who works as a pool man­ager in Wa­gin was trav­el­ling with her mother in Maui when they found a stranded fam­ily at Twin Falls river.

“When I first got there the fa­ther was stuck in the mid­dle of the river, strug­gling to go back to the other side,” Ms Ban­ner­man said.

“They were trapped at the wrong side of the river and there was nowhere else for them to go.”

The Cal­i­for­nian fam­ily had crossed the river in the morn­ing when it was only an­kle-deep, but when they came back the river was close to 2m deep. The rain had filled the river and the stream was mov­ing rapidly.

“Swim­ming was im­pos­si­ble — I’m a strong swim­mer but it was ab­so­lutely im­pos­si­ble,” Ms Ban­ner­man said.

A park of­fi­cer then came to help the fam­ily but he was un­able to cross the river be­cause of the heavy stream.

He then pro­vided Ms Ban­ner­man with a rope which she threw to the other side of the river to the fam­ily, who then tied it around a tree.

That’s when Ms Ban­ner­man crossed the river for the first time, with the rope as an aid to check an al­ter­na­tive way for the mother and her two sons and daugh­ters to cross to the other side.

When she re­alised the river was their only way out, Ms Ban­ner­man de­cided to carry the two sons and daugh­ter back to shore on sep­a­rate trips.

How­ever dur­ing her fourth trip the river had risen close to 3m deep and she al­most lost grip of the rope.

“Dur­ing the last cross I thought I was go­ing to go down the wa­ter­falls, I can feel the son al­most slip­ping from my back.

“I was ex­hausted by the time I got the three kids over, I couldn’t go back to get the mother,” Ms Ban­ner­man said.

How­ever with care­ful in­struc­tions from Ms Ban­ner­man, the mother man­aged to cross the river safely on her own.

It took Ms Ban­ner­man al­most an hour to get the fam­ily back to shore, but what frus­trated her most dur­ing this time was the amount of on­look­ers who were stand­ing around tak­ing pic­tures, in­stead of of­fer­ing any kind of help.

“It just both­ers me the amount of peo­ple that were snap­ping pic­tures rather than help­ing, they could have helped the kids when they got across but they didn’t,” she said.

“I guess that’s just the kind of world we live in now.”

Ms Ban­ner­man has been liv­ing in the Great Southern area for the past decade and has lived in Wa­gin for the past four years.

She also worked at Katan­ning pool when she first moved to Australia from Canada and of­ten vol­un­teered as a life­guard.

“My Mum said I’ve al­ways got a su­per­hero com­plex. I’ve done silly things like that be­fore just to help some­one. I scared my mum a lot,” she said.

Jen Ban­ner­man at the Wa­gin swim­ming pool.

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