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Unsung Heroes: The Unbelievable Story Of The Aussies That Saved Drowning Tourists

"I realised the full danger I was in”

Unsung Heroes: The Unbelievable Story Of The Aussies That Saved Drowning Tourists

Pink undies. Remarkable bravery. Crocodile infested water.

It sounds like the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster, but in reality it all happened just 30 klicks from Alice Springs back in the summer of 2016.

Raging floodwaters were surging through the Northern Territory when a couple was swept away in their car after attempting to drive through a flooded river. By the time Police Constable Zachary Rolfe arrived on the scene they had both become separated and required rescuing.

Without a second’s thought, he stripped off to his pink undies and set out to find them, at one stage hiking alone for 5km through the bush and wading across the surging river where the swirling wreckage and rubble beneath him became the least of his problems.

I constantly had branches and debris around my legs and was constantly worried that one of the touches was from a crocodile

- Police Constable Zachary Rolfe.

After a small breather on the edge of the river, I regained my composure and decided that if a croc tried to grab me I would just have to deal with it.

- Rolfe says.

With the assistance of Senior Constable Kirstina Jamieson and local civilian Michael Priestly, both people were ultimately found and rescued to safety.

A few months ago Mr Rolfe, Ms Jamieson and Mr Priestly were each recognised with a Royal Life Saving Bravery Cross for their courageous efforts.

Ms Jamieson and Mr Priestly recognised with a Royal Life Saving Bravery Cross. Photo credit: Royal Life Saving QLD

While the outcome of this story is a happy one thanks to a valiant trio of individuals going above and beyond, the moral is simple: be careful not to misjudge the potentially devastating power of inland waterways.

Royal Life Saving research reveals that 1,087 people have died from drowning in Australian rivers, creeks and streams over the past 15 years, 16% of drowning deaths were due to flood-related incidents.

The important message to ‘Respect the River’ is a principle Royal Life Saving is aiming to cement home to all Australians.

Over the past year 61 people have drowned in Australian waterways. Photo credit: Pexels.

The flat, still surface of an inland waterway can give a false sense of security. Currents, undertows or submerged objects – even in seemingly tranquil waterways – can prove to be very dangerous. Conditions can change rapidly, particularly after rain.

Follow four simple steps to reduce your drowning risk in rivers: wear a lifejacket, avoid alcohol and drugs around water, never swim alone, and learn how to save a life.

It’s simple. Always Respect the River #RespectTheRiver