Saved Kalbarri swimmer tells rescuers: “I would have probably only lasted another five minutes”
“She was pretty exhausted, she was scared and her words were ‘I would have probably only lasted another five minutes, I’m so pleased you got here’.”
Kalbarri trailer boat owner Bill Lindsell recounted this and other details as he told the story of how he and his mate Fred “Crocodile” Herman rescued a stranded swimmer under difficult conditions last month.
Kalbarri Volunteer Marine Rescue group commander Barry Kennewell said he received a call around 2.30pm.
A young woman swimming two or three kilometres south of the Murchison River mouth at Pot Alley was caught in a rip and being swept away.
A sightseeing visitor from Adelaide called a mayday on a UHF radio.
Council workers heard it and relayed the message to Mr Kennewell.
“It was a combined effort,” Mr Kennewell said.
“Yes, we do prefer that people call triple zero but in this case everything worked.”
As the rescue group was without a vessel, they commandeered a local boat, Little Red Rooster.
Boat owner Bill Lindsell said they were getting ready to put the boat back on the trailer when they had the call.
“We’d been out fishing and the swell was pretty big so we came back in,” he said.
“We had already logged off from VMR — if it had been five minutes, the radio would have been switched off and we would have been gone.
“We were still in the river, so we headed back out to Pot Alley.”
Mr Lindsell said they had the only boat in the water at the time.
“It was choppy in the river, the swell was big but once we got out there, the swell was pretty calm,” he said.
“It took us about 20 minutes to get out there — we could just could see her arm above the water.
“The undercurrent kept pulling her under. Every time she tried to get into the shore, she was dumped by a big wave and taken back out again with the undercurrent.”
Mr Lindsell said they called out, telling her to swim further out to calmer waters.
“When we pulled her in, she was pretty exhausted, she was scared,” Mr Lindsell said.
“Her words were ‘I would have probably only lasted another five minutes, I’m so pleased you got here’.”
“She said she could see us coming in the distance and she reckoned she had been in the water for about 50 minutes.”
It took them another 20 minutes to reach the boat ramp, where police were waiting.
Meanwhile, Mr Kennewell said they were on site about 2.40pm and co-ordinated the rescue from a cliff face where they could see the stranded swimmer and guide the Little Red Rooster.
“The good thing is, the deckie on board the vessel was also an ambulance officer, so it all went to plan nicely,” he said.
“About 2.53pm, we had her safe at the VMR jetty, so it was all very quick.
“She was cold — another five or 10 minutes out there and she would have been in a lot of trouble.”
Mr Kennewell said the swimmer was very lucky.
“The rip had taken her out, but the good thing is she had the common sense not to fight it,” he said.
Mr Kennewell said Mr Lindsell was the real hero of the story.
“It’s good the way the town pulls together in these situations,” he said.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails