Couple search for hero Aussie who risked life to save them after boat capsize

Mel Buttigieg

A worldwide search is on to find a mystery Australian hero who dived into rough seawaters to save a UK couple who say they would have drowned if it wasn't for his bravery.

Craig and Jackie O’Neill, of Leyland, and their friends Jay Cartwright and Helen Wilson, were visiting Croatia on September 21 and hired a boat to sail to the Paklinski Islands.

“On the way back we hit some rough sea and the boat capsized, throwing us into the sea,” Mr O'Neill said.

(From left) Craig and Jackie O’Neill, and friends Helen Wilson and Jay Cartwright experienced trouble at sea when their boat capsized. Picture: Jackie O'Neil/Facebook

The boat sank and he and his partner were struggling to stay afloat. At one point, Ms O’Neill even became trapped under the boat before she was able to free herself.

Mr O’Neill, 42, said he accepted he was going to drown, until an Australian on a passing excursion boat noticed the four friends struggling in the water and risked his life to jump in and drag the pair to safety.

Mr Cartwright was able to swim across to the Australian man’s boat, and Ms Wilson managed to get hold of a rope thrown down by another boat that helped the group, but Mr O’Neil wasn’t able to swim out.

Mr O’Neil said he accepted he was going to drown, until an unknown Australian on a passing boat risked his life to jump in and drag he and his partner to safety. Picture: Jackie O'Neill/Facebook

“I could not make the swim to safety, I’m a rubbish swimmer,” he wrote in his Facebook plea to find the unknown Aussie.

“I was on my own and exhausted. I had no options left and really thought ‘that’s it, I’m going to die here’.”

“Everyone was hysterical. We got our hands on the capsized boat to stay afloat and tried to wave down a passing boat about 25 metres away with about 20 people on it,” he told the Lancashire Post.

“Some guy dived in and swam over to us and said I can only take one of you, so Jackie went with him.”

Mr O’Neill said the pair had not yet made it to the rescue boat when the Aussie realised Mr O'Neill had taken in a lot of water and was not going to make it on his own.

The couple hoped to track down the mystery Aussie to thank him properly. Picture: Jackie O'Neill/Facebook

The Australian told Ms O'Neill: “If we don’t go and get him right now he’s going to die”.

“He told Jackie to get on his back and shout to me to swim towards them. I think a wave took me towards them as I was there in no time,” Mr O'Neill said.

Now carrying both of them, the man risked his life to drag the pair to the boat safely.

“This man is an absolute hero. If it wasn't for him, things would of been very different,” Mr O’Neill said.

The hero carried Mr and Ms O'Neill to safety, while their friends were able to swim to his boat. Picture: Jackie O'Neil/Facebook

He is hoping to track down the man to thank him properly for saving his and his wife’s lives.

“The only thing I did to thank this man was give him a nod,” he said.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world and people like him are amazing and need to be recognised.”

Ms O’Neill described the man as having an average build, with an athletic body, thick dark hair and a tanned complexion.