Noosa surf hero honoured with bravery award
Despite regular ACT visitor Michael Watt knowing Noosa Main Beach was as treacherous as he has ever seen it, he never hesitated.
When the keen surf swimmer saw the man beyond the break slipping under the water, as the last of the November light was fading, he sprang into action.
Stopping only to send his wife off to the lifesaving clubhouse hundreds of metres down the boardwalk for help and to borrow a boogie board to act as a flotation device for the troubled swimmer, Mr Watt plunged into the dangerous surf.
What happened in the agonisingly slow minutes which lapsed until he and a couple of off-duty lifesavers finally managed to bring the unconscious elderly man to shore has deservedly earned him a Royal Humane Society of Australasia’s Certificate of Merit for bravery.
This citation for his actions on November 28, 2018 will be presented to him tomorrow in Canberra by the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police Reece Kershaw.
Despite the outstanding efforts of the trio of rescuers and a doctor on the beach, the man could not be revived.
Mr Watt, who was in Noosa back then to celebrate his 56th birthday, said he had “conflicting” emotions about the bravery award.
“I’m looking forward to it … I just wish it could have been a better outcome,” he said.
“We were on holidays, we probably get up there three or four times a year.
“There were a lot of rips. It was particularly rough (the beach conditions), probably the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Mr Watt said.
He said the lifesavers had shut down patrols for the day when this call to action happened.
“I ran down and grabbed a boogie board, because I’ve been involved in drownings before and sometimes people get a bit panicky,” Mr Watt said.
By the time Mr Watt had swum out the man was around 1m under water.
“Trying to pull him back in was impossible – I was out there for probably four or five minutes until someone arrived,” he said.
Mr Watt said the later learned at the incident debriefing the next day, his lifesaver helper was also a policeman who tried desperately to resuscitate the man.
“I’ve had him on top of the boogie board with his face in the air,” he said.
“We were trying to swim back in but you were just fighting against the rip itself.”
He said eventually a young female lifesaver arrived on a rescue board and they managed to haul the man on there and take him back to shore.
Mr Watt said the conditions had been so tricky he had assisted another swimmer in trouble earlier in the day and “there were another two the next day in the morning”.
He said this later incident happened around 6am, as he was swimming with flippers a couple of swimmers were drifting out in a rip before he brought them back to safety.
“It was a bit hectic, but I’ve been back to Noosa and I’m coming back in September,” Mr Watt said.
MICHAEL JOHN WATT CERTIFICATE OF MERIT
The bravery citation reads: At 5.55pm Mr Watt was on Noosa Main Beach, Queensland when he saw a man approximately 50m from shore floating face down in the water.
The beach conditions at the time were treacherous and a northerly breeze was creating large waves onto Noosa Main Beach.
The large volume of water pushing onto the beach created a well-known and regular sweeping rip. The beach at the time was not patrolled by lifeguards.
Mr Watt grabbed a boogie board and ran into the water and swam out to the man. An off-duty lifesaver from Noosa SLSC also swam out to the man.
Both Mr Watt and the off-duty life saver turned the man over and put him on the boogie board to keep his head out of the water. The lifesaver attempted CPR on the man while Mr Watt held him onto the boogie board. Both men tried to return the man to shore but the current was too strong and the men were unable to make any headway against the rip.
Another off-duty lifesaver went to help on her training board. All three then managed to get the unconscious man onto the training board. The female off-duty life saver was then able to return the man to shore. Sadly, the man passed away at the scene.