Teens receive Bravery Award for dramatic ocean rescue

12 November 2021

Two teenagers from our state’s South-West showed courage beyond their years when they responded to an emergency at sea in July last year. 16-year-old Geoff Tozer and Toby Emmett were heading out through the reef gap at Horrocks Beach to collect cray pots with Geoff’s father Michael when things turned ugly.

Geoff says it happened out of the blue. “A freak wave was suddenly over the boat, it was a wall of water about four metres high and we just had nowhere to go.” The wave hit the boat and sent the three of them flying, with Michael bearing the brunt of it and severely injuring his leg. “Turns out his leg was broken in 11 places, he was in a lot of pain” says Geoff.

The two boys had to step in and take charge, not only to ensure the boat remained upright, and got back to shore, but also to take care of Michael. Geoff says it was a crazy time! “The weather was pretty bad and I had to get control of the boat, get through the break in the waves and drive back so we could get dad the help he needed.”

While Geoff drove the boat Toby stayed by Michael’s side to offer him comfort and reassure him that it was all going to be OK. ““I was trying to keep him awake because he was passing in and out of consciousness because of the pain,” Toby said. “We couldn’t quite manage to get the boat close enough to the beach so I helped Mick drag himself off the back of the boat and out of the water.”

Michael was too heavy for the boys to get him all the way up the beach to dry sand so Toby says they had to put their thinking cap on. “We managed to find a big sheet of plastic, so we got the four-wheel-drive, put him on the plastic and used the snatch strap to pull him out of the whitewash and further up the beach.” The boys were then assisted by other bystanders until an ambulance arrived around 30 minutes later to take Michael to hospital.

Geoff says he and Toby have only known each other for a couple of years, since they both started as students at Harvey’s WA College of Agriculture, but it’s a friendship that will be lifelong! “We’re best mates now, we pretty much do everything together and are inseparable.”

Through their study at the WA College of Agriculture Geoff says they had done first aid training, which helped on the day of the incident. “The biggest thing we did was ensure that dad kept his wetsuit on because we knew that we had to keep him warm. We also realised that because we didn’t have any splint or anything for his leg the wetsuit was also keeping his leg together like a big compression bandage. The doctor told me if he didn’t have the wetsuit on that day he probably would have lost his leg because it was so cold the bloodflow was cut off when he broke his bones.”

The pair were recently recognised for their incredible efforts with a Royal Life Saving WA Gold Medallion Bravery Award. Geoff says he has mixed feelings about the honour. “I feel very honoured and I’m very grateful for the people who nominated us and to Royal Life Saving for the award, but I really feel like we just did what we did in the moment and that it’s just what you do.”

Toby agrees and is keen to emphasise that they didn’t save Michael’s life on their own. “That day on the beach by the time we got Geoff's dad out of the water there was about 15 people there, with five or six main players who helped us out. They were complete strangers but I just want to make sure they are credited for what they did, because it wasn’t just us two, there was plenty of people there helping, comforting, doing what they could and putting in their all.”

Do you know someone who’s responded to save, or try to save, someone’s life? We’d love to ensure they receive well-deserved recognition for their efforts at our annual Royal Life Saving Bravery Awards. You can complete a nomination form at the link below.

Explore more button