An Irish traveller is alive because he was lucky enough to be aboard a boat with a northern beaches surf lifesaver holidaying in Europe.
Dave Maguire, a highly experienced lifesaver and surf boat sweep with Whale Beach SLSC is currently on a cycling tour of Europe when last week, he noticed an ad for a seafood and wine snorkelling day trip leaving from the holiday island of Hvar off the coast of Croatia.
“We set off at 10am, it was a beautiful day. There was no safety briefing by the crew and we were served food and wine as we motored around the secluded bays and beaches,” said Dave.
Five hours later, the Irishman’s wife was thanking Dave for saving the life of her husband after he was retrieved from beneath the surface of the water, unconscious and not breathing.
“We’d stopped for a half hour swim in a protected bay. The captain was in the galley and I was standing on the back step with the Irishman. He lowered himself into the water and let go of the ladder. I watched as he went under, took a lung full of water and started to go down.
“It happened in slow motion. He was gone with hardly any bubbles,” Dave recalled.
Over 20 years’ experience as a surf lifesaver kicked in immediately and Dave grabbed a rope and jumped in after him, yelling for help to the others aboard.
“I got hold of his wrist and struggled to get him to the surface. I managed to get him onto the back step of the boat, got him on his side and a heap of fluid started coming out of his mouth.”
After more yelling, finally some other passengers came to help as Dave commenced CPR. The man began breathing soon after, but not before rewarding Dave with a face full of fish and wine as he began vomiting.
“He was not good. Not a good colour at all. He was intoxicated from a long day and the male bravado took over. His wife was in tears and so grateful, knowing that he nearly died. She and her husband are not swimmers,” said Dave.
The captain was grateful too, however was keen to blame the patient for getting into the water when he couldn’t swim.
“There was no responsibility taken for the service of alcohol, no safety brief and no obvious flotation devices like lifejackets around.
“I was also surprised that no one on board had any idea what to do,” said Dave, who is a retired senior Detective Inspector with NSW Police. Language difficulties among the other tourists aboard contributed to the miscommunication during the emergency.
“If I hadn’t seen him go down he would have died. I have no doubt. It was such a silent submersion and he was gone,” recalled Dave.
After explaining to the couple the risks of secondary drowning, Dave left the boat back at the dock. Speaking to friends of the patient afterwards, Dave believes the victim went into a near death denial mode.
“I could tell it terrified him and his wife. They probably never want to relive the trauma. A wonderful holiday nearly ended in tragedy.”
Dave spotted them two days later in the town and swears he saw the Irishman consuming a thankful pint of Guinness!
“The whole thing brought home to me that we are never really off duty as surf lifesavers.”
Thursday 7 June 2018