Bravery Award for saving toddler at Tomato Lake

16 December 2021

A four-year-old girl had a frighteningly close call when she was discovered struggling in the water at Kewdale’s Tomato Lake in October last year. Her saviour, Niall Killalea, spoke to us about the terrifying incident.

Niall was at Tomato Lake that day with his baby son, catching up with some friends. It was 24th October 2020, a beautiful spring day, and the lake was busy with children and families. Niall had walked over to the water with his little boy to get a closer look at the ducks when he noticed a young girl standing by the edge of the lake.

“She was just pointing in as if she’d just dropped something or found something,” Niall said. “I looked around and there was nobody anywhere near her, she was looking back towards the playground and looking back to the water and kept on pointing but not saying anything. At that time, I didn’t know there was somebody in the lake, I just thought she’d dropped a ball in or something. There was a bush to her right-hand side so I couldn’t actually see what was in the lake.”

Concerned that the girl was too close to the water’s edge, Niall approached her to see what was going on. “Just as I was walking back towards her, I got a glimpse of legs in the water.” Niall saw another girl of a similar age on her back treading water in the lake. Within seconds she had turned over onto her front and had her head under the water. Niall immediately shouted out to get the attention of other people nearby.

“People were looking over and I saw one person the closest to me and I just ran towards her and literally threw Danny at her saying ‘take him, take him, take him’. I just sprinted past the girl who was standing at the edge of the lake, and I jumped as far as I could into the water. She was about 10 or 12 feet out and she was still face down. At that stage she was really slowly moving, she wasn’t kicking around anymore.”

Niall waded over to the girl where the water was at his chest height. He grabbed her and got out of the water, giving her a few back blows to try and get her to cough up the water. “She was milliseconds from giving up I’d say, she wasn’t moving anymore when I pulled her up out of the water. Luckily enough, she spat up the water and started bawling.”

An ambulance was called to the scene to check the little girl who thankfully had escaped serious injury. Had Niall not acted on instinct and entered the water to save her, the situation could easily have ended in tragedy.

Niall was awarded a Gold Star Bravery Award at the 2021 Royal Life Saving WA Bravery Awards for his actions to save the life of the little girl. “I’m so honoured to have been nominated for the award but it’s certainly not something I’d go out of my way to get acknowledgement for. I only did what I feel anyone else would have done.”

Ozgur Ozturk, who looked after Niall’s son during the incident, was the one who nominated Niall for the accolade. “It was almost like a natural instinct for this young man to let someone else take care of his own child while he dived into the water to save another child from drowning. In my eyes, this young father was a true hero that day as he saved an unfolding tragedy for the family of this child and the community.”

Drowning is one of the leading causes of preventable death in children under five in Australia. As we enter the holiday season and summer months, we urge all parents to be vigilant of their child’s whereabouts, particularly at locations near water. Follow the link below to learn more about the key drowning prevention actions outlined by the Royal Life Saving Keep Watch program:

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