Broome teen awarded Gold Cross for heroic act

11 December 2020

In March this year, 16-year-old Jac Coltman was relaxing with friends at Broome’s popular Gantheaume Point when he became embroiled in a treacherous rescue mission. 

Jac and his friends had been jumping off the rocks earlier in the day but went to sit in the shade once the wind picked up. There were some people sitting in the rock pools, a good distance from the edge, when suddenly a rogue wave crashed into them and swept two women out into the ocean. 

One woman was able to be pulled out of the water with help from bystanders, including the sister of one of Jac’s friends, who then ran to alert Jac’s group about what was happening. The other woman was being tossed around by the waves, unable to get out of the water. People were calling out to her to tread water and to swim with the current away from the rocks, but she was finding this difficult with the waves continuously rolling in.

As soon as his friend’s sister told them the woman was drowning, Jac wasted no time in rushing down to help. “I immediately ran down to the area and saw a woman in the ocean with her arms waving around,” said Jac. “I asked the people next to me if anyone had gone in, but they said they weren’t very good at swimming and it was too dangerous. When I turned back around, the woman had started to go under the water.” 

“I had to do something to help her. It was a natural instinct. I ran off a rock and dived into the ocean to swim out to her. I managed to get hold of her and tried to keep her head above water. The rip was strong and on two occasions I tried to swim back to the rocks where my maths teacher and other friends and students were waiting to help me. Unfortunately, the ocean was really rough and slammed us both on the rocks. I remember thinking that if it didn’t work, I would just go back out past the rip and tread water with her until a boat arrived.”

Jac Coltman holding his Gold Cross Bravery AwardOn the third attempt, Jac managed to get the woman to the rocks where the others helped pull them both out of the water. One of his school friends, a surf lifesaving club member, began CPR on the woman with the help of their teacher and they continued until emergency services arrived. Police and paramedics worked on the woman for 45 minutes before taking her to hospital, but she was sadly unable to be revived.

“It was hard at first, realising that the victim did not survive and wondering whether I could have done anything else to save her,” said Jac. “The police were really good in helping me understand that if I hadn’t rescued her body, her body may have never been found and the family would not be able to grieve for her.”

Jac’s decision to enter the water and put his own safety at risk when no one else was prepared to, took an extraordinary amount of courage and selflessness. At just 16 years old, Jac displayed true bravery in swimming out to the woman through the treacherous conditions and pulling her back to shore where he was smashed against rocks himself. 

Jac’s courage is to be commended, and he has been awarded a Royal Life Saving Gold Cross Bravery Award in recognition of his outstanding efforts. The Gold Cross is one of the highest levels of award and is rarely bestowed. Jac was recently presented with his award by Inspector Rohan Ingles of the WA Police Kimberley District Office.

Jac’s mum, Beth, says she was “incredibly proud at his selflessness but, at the time, very concerned about his recklessness. Water awareness is so vitally important and recognising what you can and cannot do – this is reflective of the others who were there and realised they were not strong enough swimmers to help the victim. The conditions were awful and as his parents we realise how easily we could have lost Jac that day.”

“I was with Jac when he completed his police statement and that allowed me to understand everything about the event from Jac’s perspective. The fact that his natural instinct kicked in without a second thought to help the victim was incredible and testament to who he is. He is aware of the dangers of the ocean yet seeing someone in danger was all he needed to see to respond.”

Do you know someone who has responded in an emergency to save, or attempt to save, a life? Nominate them for a Royal Life Saving Bravery Award at the link below.

Explore more button