Thursday 19 April 2018

Barman in Australia hailed a hero after saving Irish tourist as friend drowns

Dave Brearley, 22, from Great Britain speaks to the media on the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia
Dave Brearley, 22, from Great Britain speaks to the media on the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia

Jonathan Pearlman

A BRITISH bar worker in Australia has been hailed as an "absolute hero" after he dived into Melbourne's Yarra River at night to rescue one of two fully-clothed Irish tourists who tried to swim across the waterway.

Dave Brearley, 22, from Manchester, said he had heard some tourists at the bar discussing swimming across the river and warned them not to, saying "it's filthy".

About 10 minutes later, when he heard screaming and realised they had entered the water, he dived in after them.

Mr Brearley rescued one of the men but the other died. Three hours later, at 12.30am, Victorian police divers recovered the body of the man – a 27-year-old, believed to be from Clondalkin – near the Princes Bridge. He has yet to be identified.

Mr Brearley, who is in Australia on a working holiday, said he heard a cry for help and "just dived in".

'When I thought about jumping in I was scared," he told 3AW radio. "I thought, I could be in the same position as them in five minutes. I could be drawn in myself. But I couldn't stand there and watch someone drown. 'So it was either I stand there and watch someone drown or risk my life. So I just had to do it."

Mr Brearley, who has been in Australia for four months, dragged the man to safety and then tried to rescue the man's friend.

"I've heard the best thing to do is drag them out backwards," he said. "So I put my arm over his shoulder as if I was grabbing him from behind and dragged him out backwards. He was panicking and in shock, and he swallowed a lot of water so I was trying to keep him calm and get him to the edge as fast as possible."

The men entered the water near Federation Square, a popular entertainment precinct in Melbourne's city centre.

Mr Brearley, who works as a waiter at the Riverland Bar, said the man he rescued had been at the bar earlier in the night and did not appear drunk.

The two men had reportedly jumped in as a prank and were both wearing jeans.

As Mr Brearley dragged the man to safety, the man said his friend was still in the river and was "under the water".

"By the time I got to the edge, someone asked me if there was anyone else in the water," Mr Brearly said. "I said 'yeah – his friend is still in there'. And a few other guys jumped in and tried to help him, but obviously weren't successful." The rescued man was taken to hospital suffering hypothermia.

A paramedic, Susie Dean, praised Mr Brearley's bravery, saying he would be nominated for a one of the state's community hero awards.

"There was a very strong current in the Yarra tonight," she said. "It's dark, cold and he has been able to avert catastrophe for one of the people who was in the river. The waiter has been absolutely heroic in what he's done tonight to jump into the river."

At least two other people who jumped in the river to try to rescue the men also had to be rescued.

The river has been the scene of several apparent drownings involving tourists. In 2008, the body of a 28-year-old Irish tourist, Stephen King, was recovered, reportedly after a night out nearby. Last August, police recovered the body of a Korean tourist who tried to swim across the river near Federation Square while celebrating his 24th birthday.

Senior Sergeant John Fitzpatrick said the stunt last night was extremely dangerous.

"Swimming across the river at night when you're dressed in inappropriate clothing like jeans is really a recipe for disaster," he said.

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