Teens recognised for saving group from swell

Holly ThompsonSound Telegraph
Mia Bennett and Cole Johns were just 13 when they saved a father and his children from drowning.
Camera IconMia Bennett and Cole Johns were just 13 when they saved a father and his children from drowning. Credit: Holly Thompson/ Sound Telegraph/Picture: Holly Thompson, Holly Thompson/ Sound Telegraph

Two young Secret Harbour lifesavers have been recognised for coming to the aid of a father and his two children, who were struggling to stay afloat in a large swell.

Mia Bennett and Cole Johns were both 13 when they heard calls for help while at training with Secret Harbour Surf Live Saving Club.

Now 15, the pair have finally been recognised at the Coastal Bravery Awards, which were postponed last year due to COVID-19.

The incident happened on Secret Harbour Beach in March last year. A surfer was sitting on his board with what appeared to be another adult and two children clinging to the board, struggling to hold on as the board dipped under the water.

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Despite the strong current and large waves, the pair paddled out to lend assistance to the group.

“It wasn’t really a big deal, it was more like instinct. The dad was yelling out to us, they had lost their footing, it takes two seconds for that to happen,” Mia said.

“They were maybe about 30m out. The young girl I rescued was only very little, the dad was holding her afloat and managed to help put her on my board.”

Cole said he then helped get the father on to his board and paddled him in to shore.

“They were all fine afterwards, just a bit in shock,” he said.

Mia and Cole both heard they had won the Coastal Bravery Award last year, but have only just received them after an awards ceremony on May 7.

A separate incident at Secret Harbour Beach also resulted in another man, Barry Smith, being presented with a Coastal Bravery Award.

Mr Smith’s brother Andy was launched head-first into a shallow sandbar, the impact paralysing him from the neck down.

Thanks to Mr Smith’s first-aid skills to ensure his brother’s neck and spine were supported by the surfboard as he swam him 100m to shore, Andy’s paralysis was temporary.

While Andy credited his brother with saving his life, he also expressed gratitude to two strangers who lent a hand in bringing him to shore.

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