Ambulance officers treat a male Schoolies Week reveller, who owes his life to a Caloundra beachgoer and a lifeguard.
Ambulance officers treat a male Schoolies Week reveller, who owes his life to a Caloundra beachgoer and a lifeguard. Warren Lynam

Stranger saves drowning schoolie

A QUICK-acting holidaymaker and a lifeguard averted a possible Schoolies Week tragedy at Bulcock Beach at Caloundra yesterday.

A reveller was “blue” when he was pulled unconscious from the water, while another thought he was going to die before being rescued.

Emergency services officers were called to the beach about 10am after it was reported that two men were having difficulties swimming, with one of the men particularly distressed.

A 17-year-old from Sydney, known only as Andrew, was taken to Nambour General Hospital, where he remained overnight.

Andrew said he was attempting to swim across Pumicestone Passage to Bribie Island with two mates when he got into trouble.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said from his hospital bed.

“I am not a very strong swimmer and the current was so strong. I was exhausted from trying to keep my head above water. I swallowed lots of water.”

Andrew, who is on a road trip with six mates after finishing Year 12, said he thought of his parents, his family and his friends as he struggled to keep his head above water.

He also apologised for his recklessness.

“I am so sorry we didn't think this through,” he said. “We underestimated the current and the depth. It has taught us a huge lesson.”

A passer-by, Michael O'Rourke, heard Andrew's mates screaming for help and without hesitation ran to the water and swam 50 metres to their aid.

Mr O'Rourke, who was holidaying with his family from Brisbane, kept Andrew's head above water until a jet skier picked up all three men and took them to shore.

Mr O'Rourke was a reluctant hero.

“I saw the guys yelling and shouting for help and at first I thought they were fooling around, but then I realised they were in trouble,” he said.

“After we were pulled back to the beach, a lady put the bloke in recovery position and cleared his airway. Thankfully he started breathing again.”

A female witness said that without Mr O'Rourke's quick response, the man would have died.

“When the guy got pulled on to the beach he was blue. It was terrifying,” she said.

“Swimming out there to help took guts.

“They were big guys and they kept struggling and pulling each other under. If no one had helped, I have no doubt the unconscious man would have died.”

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