Gladstone's Ashley Carriage saved someone from drowning at Fraser Island.
Gladstone's Ashley Carriage saved someone from drowning at Fraser Island. Rowan Schindler

'They would've been looking for a body': lifesaver

IF IT wasn't for Ashley Carriage's bravery a man would have drowned.

The Gladstone man was holidaying with his family on Fraser Island at Christmas when disaster struck.

He was fishing with his son Thomas on the beach when a woman nearby alerted him to three men struggling in the surf.

"I looked over and they started waving and calling and I thought 'oh crap'," Mr Carriage said.

Mr Carriage grabbed some boogie boards from the sand.

Two of the three men were doing OK after he gave them a board, but the last man was in serious trouble.

"He was probably about 15 metres away from me, so I duck-dived under a wave and came back up," he said.

"He was obviously in the rip, so then he was about 25m away from me."

"I had to get myself into the rip because he kept getting away from me."

The last few metres to get to the drowning man were the most harrowing.

"He was just going down, pushing off the sand and coming up for breath...he went down five or six times and each time his hands were getting further under. By the time I got to him, his hands were probably a foot under the water, then I dragged him onto the board." But things did not get easier.

The swimmer was saying goodbye when he was pulled from the water and by now they were about 150m from the beach.

"By this stage I was pretty knackered, so we just tried to get our breath back and keep him conscious," Mr Carriage said.

"It was starting to get dark and I wasn't sure if we were still stuck in the rip."

Mr Carriage's son was waiting on the beach with the woman who first told him about the trio.

To make matters worse, his wife had just got to the beach but because they were so far out, nobody could see them.

It took him about 30 minutes to get back to shore.

"Once I got my feet on the sand, the guys had to come from the beach and drag us both out of the water," he said.

"Neither of us could walk at this stage."

The owner of AC Plumbing and Roofing said nothing like this had ever happened to him before.

But he said if he had not gone out "they would've been looking for a body".

"If it had been another minute it would've been too late," he said.

"He was taking on water when I got to him, he was stuffed.

"It shook me up for a while, put it that way."

Chris Lees


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