Young lives were saved by everyday heroes
Port Coogee rescuers: Russell Dymock, Tracey McLaren, midwife Amelia and Melissa Yule. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

Russell Dymock and his two children were sitting in the shade of their small shelter on Port Coogee beach when a woman staggering to shore with a limp child caught his eye.

"She just looked very desperate so I moved towards her straight away," he said. "When I got there, I saw his face and realised something was drastically wrong."

As soon as Russell took the unconscious boy from Cherie Gavranic's arms she turned and ran straight back into the water but the shocked high school teacher did not know why.

He did not realise there was another boy in trouble several metres from shore as he focused on trying to get a response from the four-year-old.

It was about 10.15am on a sunny Thursday in school holidays and dozens of families were enjoying the calm waters at the man-made Port Coogee beach.

That peace was shattered by terrified screams for help as Cherie struggled back to shore, this time with a blue and limp six-year-old in her arms.

Russell did not hear any of that. He had started giving the younger boy CPR after failing to find a pulse.

Nearby, mothers Tracey McLaren and Melissa Yule did hear the screams.

They ran to the shallows to grab the boy from Cherie's arms and Tracey started breathing in his mouth before they were even out of the water.

Both boys were unconscious when they were brought to shore.

But they survived the near drownings, given the best chance of survival that day by the strangers who rushed to help.

The four parents who revived the boys after Cherie's vital rescue all know CPR.

Three had never been involved in a real emergency but all had extensive first aid training that kicked in when it was needed.

The brothers were rushed to hospital, the younger one critically ill. But just days later they were home recovering with their family.

They and their parents are too traumatised to talk about what happened.

But their rescuers have spoken to _The Weekend West _ to highlight the importance of learning first aid and acting quickly.

It can, and did, save a life.

"Everyone moved so quickly, that's what saved those little boys," Melissa said. "It's basic first aid training. If you know how to give compressions and breaths, it's all you need."

Cherie had been swimming with her son and daughter when she saw the boys floating facedown near several other children.

At first she thought they might have been playing a game of starfish but as she swam closer she realised they were unconscious.

It is believed the boys had been in the shallows but lost their footing where the sandy floor drops off - going from a depth of about 50cm to almost 190cm in an instant.

Melissa said that when she ran to help Cherie she did not immediately realise another boy was already being resuscitated on the beach. "It's all a bit of a blur," she said.

The first aid trainer said the six-year-old had a faint pulse when she and Tracey put him on his side. She could feel his heart beating.

But when they realised he was not breathing, they started doing compressions.

A midwife and former CPR trainer, Amelia made a last-minute decision to go to the beach with her children that day and was sitting on the grass with friends.

When she saw the commotion she also ran to help.

She soon realised Tracey and Melissa were doing everything right to revive the six-year-old and turned to Russell, who was still working alone.

She is not sure what she said but Russell remembers her exact words.

"It was very comforting," he said. "In a very calm voice she said 'I'm a nurse I can help you. What do you need?'

"It was the biggest relief because until then I felt very alone. It was horrific."

As both sets of rescuers tried desperately to revive the boys, other beachgoers called for ambulances, cleared parking bays and offered towels.

After a few minutes of compressions - the rescuers repeatedly asking for quiet as they listened for evidence of breathing - they had the first signs they desperately wanted.

The cold boys began vomiting seawater, whimpering, crying . . . their noise giving everyone hope. Russell said that was the first he realised another rescue attempt was going on just metres away.

Eventually the boys were moved to the tree-shaded grass where they were closely monitored during the agonising wait for paramedics.

St John Ambulance said the first triple zero call came at 10.21am and an ambulance was on scene by 10.34am.

When the boys were rushed to hospital and the adrenaline wore off, the emotions the rescuers had kept in check flooded to the surface.

As shock set in, Tracey wandered back to her family and collapsed sobbing while the others introduced themselves and made sure none were going to be alone.

Melissa said she fell to pieces when she returned to where her young children were sitting with her friend.

In the hours after the rescue, Cherie could not even remember returning to the water to retrieve the second boy.

As the rescuers recounted the terrifying incident this week, the emotions of that day were still evident in their voices.

"It just makes you very aware of death, how frail life is and how easily it can happen," Tracey said. "I've never been so happy to see paramedics."

Sleep was rare in the days after the rescue as they all worried and waited to hear if the boys were OK.

Russell kept reliving those minutes on the beach.

"I can't get the image out of my head of holding him at the beginning. It is just haunting me," he said. "When we learnt they were OK, it was time to move on."

Some of them have since met the boys but want to respect the family's privacy and will not discuss what has been said.

They just want their experience to raise awareness of the importance of learning CPR and acting quickly.

Russell admits the decision to start CPR was overwhelming, especially because it was a little child.

"My mind was blank for five seconds but then I had two very distinct thoughts - he's not responding and then, give him CPR," he said. "Once I started it was automatic."

The rescuers, who have done extensive first aid training for their jobs, believe it is fate they were at the beach that day. They do not want to think what could have happened if they had to wait for paramedics.

The West Australian

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