‘Luck’ on lifeguard’s side during heroic rescue
A brave lifeguard used his "lucky" surfboard to prevent a tragic drowning becoming a mass tragedy at a remote stretch of surf on the Mornington Peninsula.
Chris Perrott, 24, jumped into the treacherous water at Bushrangers Bay near Cape Schanck clad only in his boardies when three women and a 13-year-old girl were swept off rocks.
The medical student, who works as a beach lifeguard over summer, had been driving from Gunnamatta to Point Leo when he received an alert and raced to help.
One of the women, 45-year-old Aida Hamed, sadly died.
But authorities say even more people could have drowned.
A bystander, believed to have served in the navy, also jumped in to help.
Mr Perrott, who battled the swell for about half an hour, said: "It was just adrenaline."
"I was just trying to make sure everyone was OK,'' he said.
Mr Perrott, carrying his fins and lifeguard radio, gave the surfboard to the youngest girl and her 19-year-old sister as the bystander helped them stay afloat some 30m offshore.
Both sisters were exhausted and taking on water.
"They would have been there for at least half an hour before I got there,'' Mr Perrott said.
"The girl was trying to say: 'Take my little sister, take my little sister'."
The lifesaving helicopter winched their mum, 47, to safety before Mr Perrott reached Ms Hamed about 60m away and delivered several rescue breaths.
She too was winched from the water along with the eldest sister.
"By pure luck I'd actually damaged my surfboard that morning so I had it in my car because I was going to drop it off to have it repaired,'' Mr Perrott said.
"I'm absolutely obsessed with surfing so I was probably more comfortable with the surfboard than a rescue lifesaving board.
"I was saying to my friend the other day that I think it's one of my favourite surfboards I've ever had - it's my lucky surfboard.
"And it sort of pulled through in a time of need as well."
Mr Perrott, who is the Mornington Peninsula's chief lifeguard and lifesaving director at Portsea Surf Life Saving Club, said by chance he'd been checking in with lifeguards in the area on Wednesday.
He'd never been to Bushrangers Bay but Google Maps fortuitously directed him to the emergency access road leading to the water and paramedics had the code to a secured gate.
"It was just pure fluke that I had been going from Gunnamatta to Point Leo,'' Mr Perrott said.
"I pretty much would never be closer to Bushrangers Bay.
"It would have been amazing if we had been able to get to all of them in time.
"But the fact there were three people pulled out that are hopefully going to be fine is a much better story than all four passing away.
"It was really a team effort with all the emergency service staff.
"And the bloke who jumped in did a fantastic job and is the real hero of the day."
Life Saving Victoria general manager of lifesaving services Liam Krige said: "While sadly one person lost their life during this tragic event, three survived, and that's thanks to Chris."
"His actions were incredibly heroic,'' Mr Krige said.
"However, it's important to remember that he is a highly trained and skilled professional lifeguard. The last thing we want to see is a person who's trying to help get themselves into trouble, or worse."
Since July 1 last year, 38 people have drowned in Victoria - the deadliest spate on record.
Originally published as 'Luck' on lifeguard's side during heroic rescue