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Surfer turns rescuer, saves three from drowning

MITCH Bauer's casual afternoon surf turned into a heart-pumping ocean rescue when he spotted a group of tourists having trouble in the water.

The 20-year-old Bundaberg man had been surfing at the unpatrolled Nielson Park Beach at about 4.30pm when he noticed three people yelling for help in front of him.

"It was a bit choppy, bit windy and stormy. I was probably only in the water for about five minutes when I looked around because I heard some noise," he said.

"I saw that they had been dragged out past me. It took me a few moments to realise they were calling for help."

Mr Bauer said one of the swimmers was about 20 metres from him while two more swimmers were even further away.

"I paddled over and hopped off my board and he (the swimmer) jumped on. In the meantime, a couple of other younger surfers came over and the other swimmers jumped on their boards," he said.

Mr Bauer and his fellow surfers got the tourists to the safety of the rocks and the beach.

"Out in the water, they were pretty scared and frantic. One of them said he had swallowed a lot of water.

"Once we got on land they were pretty thankful."

Surf Life Saving Queensland regional operations manager Craig Holden said Mr Bauer's actions prevented what could have been a tragedy.

"They were fantastic efforts by the rescuer - he has prevented potentially the loss of three lives," Mr Holden said.

"It also goes to show that depending on the wind, tide and surf conditions, our beaches can present a danger to swimmers - even if they look relatively safe and calm."

Mr Holden said people needed to think twice before swimming at unpatrolled beaches.

"If choosing to swim at an unpatrolled location, swimmers need to ensure they are supervised and/or not swimming alone and that they stay close to the water's edge, where they can touch the bottom and escape from trouble more easily," he said.

Mr Holden said a call for help should always be made in a dangerous situation.

"Call for assistance - dial 000. The Kelly's Beach lifeguard could have launched the RWC (jet ski) and responded very quickly," he said.

"In this instance, a board rider was able to assist, which was great because of the flotation device being able to be used and made the task slightly easier."

"The danger with someone swimming out to assist is that they can also find themselves in trouble (i.e. caught in the rip) and then we have a greater number of people in trouble and potentially losing their lives."

Mr Bauer said he didn't think twice about the situation and his natural instinct to help kicked in straight away.

"You just sort of dive in there," the modest young hero said.

Topics:  editors picks, lifesaving, rip, surf



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