Right place at the right time

January 24, 2018

Marcus, Phoebe, 14, and Finn, 12, pictured after helping swimmers caught in a rip current during their holiday at Ocean Grove.

A rescue helicopter winches a man to safety after a riptide took him into deep water.

A rescue helicopter circles above and winches a distressed man from the water, carrying him through the air and back to the safety of the sandy beach at Ocean Grove.

It’s a couple of days after the New Year.
Corowa’s Michelle Osborne is laying on the sand filming the ordeal on her mobile phone, unaware that her husband Marcus and their two children played a role in helping the man and his children struggling in a dangerous rip current.
That riptide dragged Marcus and the father from Geelong up to 60 metres into deep water.
The Osborne family – Michelle, Marcus, Phoebe, 14, and Finn, 12, - had been at the beach all of five minutes before Marcus and the kids were already in the water on their boogie boards.
It was not long after that Marcus said they could feel “a real pull in the water”.
“We were body surfing on the waves and before we knew it we were behind where the waves were breaking,” he said.
“We were being pulled out when I made eye contact with a man who was the furthest out.
“He started shaking his head, which sent out alarm bells and I knew he was in trouble.
“I yelled out to him: ‘are you ok?’.
“He shook his head again and that was when I really knew he was in trouble and needed help.”
Marcus was able to call out to son Finn who handed over his boogie board so that Marcus could help the man, who at this stage was in a panic over his children who had been swimming alongside him.
“I was able to reassure him that his kids were safe and back on the beach,” Marcus said.
“He calmed down and I told him we were not going to fight this and to just head out because we are going to get rescued.”
The strong pull saw the two men swept between 50 to 60 metres from the last breakers.
“I had seen the helicopter going back and forth since we had been there,” Marcus said.
“I am not sure if it was me waving my arm that got their attention or people on the beach had noticed us out there.
“Either way help was not far.”
Still unbeknownst to Michelle, she could see Marcus waving and since the lifesavers at that stage were not moving so she thought he was just waving hello.
Soon after a lifeguard on a surf ski came out but the man was unable to balance and fell off.
The call was made to use the helicopter, which located them and took the man to safety while Marcus swam back.
“We later found out from the helicopter pilot that there were 13 of us in the rip,” Marcus said.
Michelle and Marcus said their children, former state swimmers with the Corowa Sharks Swimming Club, knew about the dangers of a rip current and that they should swim sideways to a rip.
It was their experience as swimmers that enabled them to help the younger children stuck in the rip.
Reflecting on the experience, Michelle said it was like fate that they were there that day and at that time.
“We had only been there five minutes before Marcus and the kids stepped into the water. It was like we were meant to be there,” she said.
The lifeguards and paramedics spent an hour observing the Geelong father and checking his vitals.
“That’s when it really sunk in, just seeing his wife crying and seeing the kids very much grateful,” Marcus said.
Michelle is proud that her family helped others in the water that day.
“I have always felt that swimming is such an important part of life, little children need to know how to get to safety,” she said.
“Knowing that our own children are such good swimmers that they could get out of that situation if they ended up in it, which they did, is good.”
The family hope to use their story as a warning to those who swim not only at the beach but also other waterways, including the river, to take care and raise an alarm as soon as you get into trouble.

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