Man saved from pier drowning

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SENIOR Constable Julie Morris, who saved a young man from drowning at Frankston Pier last week. Picture: Supplied

RESCUING a swimmer struggling in rough water under Frankston pier was all in a day’s work for police woman Julie Morris.

The senior constable and her sergeant were responding to a distress call on the pier during Thursday 21 November’s strong north winds and 40-degree temperatures.

A young man taking a quick dip before work got into trouble when conditions deteriorated. Unable to climb back onto the pier he wedged himself between pylons and the pier’s roof, 11.30am.

Powerful waves crashing through were knocking him around and he was barely able to hang on and forced to hold his breath every time water surged through, covering his head.

After 25 minutes of calling for help, and with those above him not being able to see where he was, the 18-year-old, of Botanic Ridge, was “frightened and in serious trouble”.

Senior Constable Morris, 37, said: “He’d found a gap where he could keep his head above water but, when I looked down, I could see he was getting smashed by the waves.

“I couldn’t just stand by and watch him struggle. I said to my sergeant, ‘I’m going in because if I don’t go in he’s dead.’”

An experienced year-round open water swimmer, Senior Constable Morris said she was comfortable in the trying conditions and confident she could assist the man despite a “strong undercurrent”.

She quickly shed her uniform and dived in under the pier carrying a floatation device thrown by lifesavers. “He was a big, strong boy, about six foot three (190cm) and ripped, but nearing the end of his strength,” she said.

“When I got to him I could see he was white faced and in borderline shock. 

“He asked, ‘Are you going to rescue me?’”

“I said, ‘Yes. When the next big wave comes let go and jump in the water. He was a brave boy and he did. It was his first swim for the season and it was cold in.”

Senior Constable Morris said the rough seas and strong currents meant it took them five minutes to swim 20 metres to a ladder about 70 metres from shore. They were helped up by lifesavers. An ambulance crew waiting near the beach took the man to Frankston Hospital.     

This is the second rescue in which Senior Constable Morris has been involved. The other was in November 2016.

“I don’t know what it is about November,” she said. “People are often keen to have their first swim of the year and they are not ready for it.”

First published in the Frankston Times – 25 November 2019

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