Police struggle to pull a woman up onto the banks of the Clarence River.
Police struggle to pull a woman up onto the banks of the Clarence River.

Teenager Corey saves woman in dramatic river rescue

A 14-YEAR-OLD boy has been hailed a hero by police after saving an elderly woman who had thrown herself off the Grafton Bridge.

The woman jumped from the walkway of the bridge yesterday morning after leaving a suicide note on top of her neatly folded jumper.

The note said simply: "Sorry boys, the struggle has become too much."

The youth, Corey Warburton, of South Grafton, was walking across the bridge on his way to Grafton skate park when he noticed the jumper and note.

Chilled after reading the few words, he looked down into the Clarence and saw the elderly woman's body floating facedown.

"At first I thought she was already dead, but then I noticed her moving her arm towards her face," Corey said.

"I thought 'my God, I am the only one that can save her', so I ripped off my shoes and shirt and jumped off the bridge towards her."

As he got close to the woman, Corey tried to turn her over, but she refused, dragging them both down into the icy depths.

Corey didn't give up. Kicking as hard as he could, the slightly-built teenager was able to force them both back to the surface where he gasped for air.

"I told her to keep her head up, but she kept pushing me back under and we were both swallowing a lot of water," he said.

"When she realised I wasn't going to give up on her she turned over and allowed me to drag her 80 metres back to shore."

At the same time Corey was struggling with the elderly woman another young man, Michael Bethune, 16, was walking across the bridge with his family and had also come across the suicide note.

When he saw the struggle below he raced towards the far bank and dived into the river to help Corey pull the woman through the thick weeds on the South Grafton side of the river.

While they were able to keep her head above water, the reeds proved near impenetrable and it was then that Michael's mother, Sandra Shipley, waded in to help.

Despite the efforts of the trio they still couldn't manage to reach the bank and had to be helped by the first police officers on the scene including Senior Constable Phil Benfield.

In all it had taken almost 20 minutes to drag the woman from the cold river. As he walked past our photographer at the scene, a shivering Sen Const Benfield said 'do something special for that kid (Corey) he has saved that woman's life, he's a bloody hero'.

With that he wrapped his arms around young Corey and gave him a hug. Both were standing there exhausted and dripping wet.

"Mate, I only helped them drag her through the reeds, this kid pulled her 80 metres to shore by himself," Sen Const Benfield said.

Sandra Shipley, who was also soaked to the skin, just shook her head.

"Kids don't do what Corey did today, I am proud of my young Michael, but Corey is just an amazing kid," she said.

"He sees a note, sees a body in the water and then without hesitation jumps from the bridge to save her, no questions."

As the ambulance drove away with the elderly woman, police on the scene said she seemed to be okay but had swallowed a lot of water.

The final words belonged to one of her rescuers, Mrs Shipley, who said: "What is going on in this woman's life to make her jump off the bridge, doesn't anybody care about her?"

A hospital spokesman said the elderly woman was resting last night in Grafton Base Hospital in a stable condition.

UPDATE: Health NSW addresses hospital site safety concerns

UPDATE: Health NSW addresses hospital site safety concerns

The CFMEU put a stop to the works earlier this morning.

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