A COURAGEOUS swim by two young men into treacherous waters off Yambuk saved the lives of a Russian father and his teenage son, onlookers say.
Balmoral’s Shaun Bloomfield, 20, and Colac’s Sam Young, 17, swam about 400 to 500 metres out to sea on Monday evening to rescue the two holidaymakers who were unaware of the beach’s reputation for dangerous currents.
A police officer from Portland police was also involved in the rescue.
The duo were playing touch football along the banks of Yambuk Lake when an onlooker ran over the beach dunes screaming for assistance after she saw the tourists being swept out to sea.
Shaun and Sam sprinted across the lake reserve’s car park, scaled the sand dunes, dropped their mobile phones and other possessions before plunging into waters described by the Beach Safe rating guide as “very hazardous”.
“We could hear this lady screaming ‘they’re stuck out at sea, they’re stuck out at sea’ and we just raced down to the beach,” Shaun said.
“Once we got to the top of the dunes, we could see how far out they were.
“They were right out at the last breaker, maybe 400 or so metres out, so we just swam with the rip until it carried us to the older guy and his son.”
The language barrier between the rescuers and tourists also posed problems, with the Russian teenager unable to understand Shaun and Sam’s instructions regarding the futility of swimming against the currents. Shaun said the father, aged in his early 40s, was still able to swim properly but his son had swallowed several mouthfuls of seawater and was starting to act in a frantic manner.
“They both couldn’t speak English very well and the (teenager) kept sort of pulling us down under the water,” he said.
Sam said the tourists were used to swimming in lakes and were unaware of the dangers of sea currents. The Colac teenager has surf lifesaving experience.
“I think they didn’t really know how rips work and that you can’t just swim back to shore in a straight line,” he said. “You have to swim sideways and I think they started to understand once we sort of headed in that direction.”
The father, son and their two rescuers swam back to shore in a westerly direction, heading towards the opening of the Yambuk Lake mouth.
A crowd of more than 25 onlookers had assembled at the beach.
To add to the drama, a man in his 70s had collapsed on Yambuk Beach after suffering a heart attack only 30 minutes prior to the sea rescue in an unrelated incident.
Emergency services treated the man on site but had to return to the beach after being notified of the rescue attempt. Ambulance officers assessed the father and son but neither required further treatment.
The Russian family are understood to have continued their holiday along the Great Ocean Road yesterday.
Portland holidaymaker Mick Puche, who witnessed the rescue, said onlookers were impressed by the conduct of both young men.
“They deserve a medal, they really do,” he said. “Most people would just stand on the beach, scratching their heads. But Sam and Shaun didn’t even think twice.”
The Standard witnessed several other holidaymakers swimming in shallow water along Yambuk beach yesterday. They were unaware of the dangers and left the water as soon as they were informed.
A small sign issued by the Moyne Shire is located at the base of the main entrance to the beach warning of dangerous currents. The police officer who assisted in the rescue was unavailable for comment yesterday.