Emotional moment near-drowning victim meets rescuer
"HE'S my bloody hero."
An emotional Ben Jeffrey could hardly believe his rescuer was only 14 when reunited with Clayton Schilg - the Tweed Heads Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club nipper who saved his life sea at Wooyung Beach on January 9.
"He is so mature beyond his years," Mr Jeffrey said.
"The whole family is beautiful, and they will be friends for life. We will definitely stay in contact."
The 28-year-old Geelong man was one of four men Clayton saved from drowning after they were swept out to sea at an unpatrolled Tweed Coast beach in a strong rip.
The Brisbane teen was on the last days of a holiday with his family when he acted without thinking, grabbed a surfboard and dived into the water to save the swimmers in distress.
After two stints in Tweed Hospital because of the near-drowning, Mr Jeffrey was finally given the medical all-clear and caught up with Clayton and his family for lunch at Brunswick Heads before beginning the road trip back to Victoria.
Mr Jeffrey's partner, Christine Campbell, told the Tweed Daily News he was close to giving up hope as his strength failed.
At that moment Clayton reached him and put him on the surfboard.
"I didn't deal with it very well at the time, I went into shock, and Clayton's mum Lea-Anne (Schilg) was just the most compassionate woman ever," he said.
"She held me and kept talking to me, saying 'He is still breathing, everyone is okay'. They are the most beautiful parents to have raised just the best young man."
In an incredible feat, Clayton kicked the board in to shore with a swimmer hanging on each side, Mr Jeffrey on the board and another man clinging to Clayton's back.
If that wasn't enough, when he reached the beach Clayton took charge of the situation - pulling Mr Jeffrey up past the waterline, correctly advising onlookers not to give him water, putting him in the recovery position and shielding him from the sun with a towel while waiting for paramedics.
Mr Jeffrey had come up to the Gold Coast to visit family.
He was described by witnesses as "in a bad way" when he reached the shore.
After being stabilised by a nearby off-duty nurse on the beach, Mr Jeffrey was treated by paramedics for water inhalation and revisited the hospital later for kidney issues.
Thankfully, now the Victorian man is on his way back home and will be at work next week.
Mr Jeffrey and Ms Campbell called for Clayton to receive a bravery medal.
The young hero received phone calls the night of the rescue from Mr Jeffrey, Mr Jeffrey's father and the CEO of Surf Life Saving NSW.
"One of the other men Clayton saved was Ben (Mr Jeffrey)'s brother. Their father called Clayton and thanked him for saving both his sons' lives," Clayton's father Barry Schilg said.
Clayton, ever the humble hero, said the credit went to his surf club that he travelled to on weekends from his home in Brisbane. "The Tweed Heads Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club gave me these lifesaving skills when I completed my Surf Rescue Certificate and did
rescue scenarios," Clayton said.
"I recommend everyone who has the chance to join their local SLSC. I couldn't have done it without them."