TCB tragedy's reluctant heroes to get awards
TWO Gympie men who risked their life to save a boy from drowning and attempted to save another will be recognised for their heroic act.
Graeme Spillman and Adam Whitehouse have forever been changed by the tragedy they experienced first-hand at Norman Point last February, when nine-year-old Riley lost his life before their eyes.
"It was such a lovely day - the sun was shining, children were playing and it turned out to be a horrible tragedy," Mr Spillman said.
"I wasn't ready for that."
Mr Spillman had been anchored in the bay when he saw a man and two boys splashing and waving. It didn't register that it was not a father playing with his children until the three figures quickly became distant dots being sucked out into the channel.
Minutes before, Mr Whitehouse, a stranger passing by, had swum out to the two young boys who had been knocked off a floatie ring and were drifting out.
Mr Spillman sped to the struggling group while Mr Whitehouse battled profusely to hold both panicking boys up in the water until all his strength left him.
Almost a year later, what happened next is not something Mr Whitehouse can forget.
"I promised him that he wouldn't drown because he was crying to me he didn't want to drown and that sticks in my head a lot," Mr Whitehouse said, 11 months on from the event.
Yesterday both men received news they will be awarded a Police Commissioner's Appreciation award for "saving a young boy and attempting to save another".
The news has been hard to swallow for both men.
"I don't think I deserve it," Mr Whitehouse said of the award.
While he said he's accepted the heartbreaking outcome was not his fault, he cannot forgive himself for breaking his promise.
Mr Spillman said the tragedy had taken a long time to stop thinking about.
"I don't know how to feel - if I should feel happy or guilty about (the award)," he said.
"I'd much prefer to forget about it. I've accepted that (the man) Adam's alive and the other boy's alive.
"I did the best I could."
The two men met for the first time in the horror moments at Norman Point when Mr Spillman hauled Mr Whitehouse from the water, moments from sinking under himself as he clung to the two boys, and rushed him to the shore.
They have became fast friends and now work alongside each other at Edward's Transport.
Mr Spillman said his close friend told him he owes him his life.
"We're best of mates - we can talk to each other about anything."