Brave teen is a true lifesaver

Little went through 17-year-old Emilio Gianoli's mind as he battled strong currents to save a woman struggling to stay afloat about 100m off a Denmark beach this year.

It was not until the Sorrento teenager reached the woman, who had been pulled out to sea by a rip with her young son and St Bernard dog, that he realised he could drown.

"As I was swimming out I didn't think it would be much trouble," Emilio said.

"But the further I went out, the stronger the current got and for about five minutes I held on to her and swam against the current towards the shore, which was probably the wrong idea.

"She was so puffed out she was lying on her back and really clinging to me, so I was eventually kind of panicking for my own life.

"We were going nowhere - just slowly going further out.

"I pretty much just launched her in front of me on to the rocks and she just lay there on the rocks for about two minutes, exhausted."

The dramatic rescue took place on January 12 at Lights beach - a small sheltered beach with granite boulders on each side which, according to warning signs in the carpark, is subject to rips.

Emilio had been at the beach with his father Phillip, his sister and his sister's boyfriend, Benjamin Rickards.

Mr Gianoli spotted the struggling woman and her son after he climbed the boulders to take photos.

Mr Rickards also raced into the water and saved the woman's son, hauling him on to the beach shortly after Emilio and the woman had reached the rocks. The dog managed to swim back to shore.

The heroic beachgoers have been nominated for Royal Life Saving WA bravery awards by lifeguard trainer John East, who watched the rescue unfold.

Emilio, a Year 12 student at Sacred Heart College, said he had not been able to sleep that night and, after he finally drifted off, he was woken by a nightmare.

"I was pretty shaken up for the rest of the night," he said.

"I think the adrenaline was still pumping through me and I realised I could have drowned.

"But I'm still very glad I saved a person's life."

Emilio said he would expect anyone else in his position to do the same thing.

He said the woman, who he believes was called Amelia or Emily, and her family hugged him in thanks and left the beach quickly.

He hoped she would come forward so he could wish her well after they shared such a dramatic experience.

"I'd really like to know if she is all right," Emilio said.

Mr East said there had been a strong rip at the beach on the day and believed the woman and boy would have been in "a lot of trouble" if they had not been rescued.

He said it was unlikely anyone would have seen them had Mr Gianoli not climbed on to the boulders for a better view.

"I went over to the boys and shook their hands and congratulated them," Mr East said.

"The surf was quite rough and to go out there, not knowing what they were going into, there was a good chance they could have got into difficulty themselves."

Mr Gianoli said he was proud of his son and Mr Rickards. "I was just so glad to have him back on the beach," he said.

Sacred Heart College principal Peter Bothe said he was proud that one of the school's students had not flinched before helping someone in need.

The West Australian

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