Quick-thinking teen and bystander save woman from drowning in kayak mishap

26 October 2020

A fun day on the water at Mindarie Marina turned into an emergency rescue situation for teenager Ben Properjohn, who was kayaking with his aunt and her friend. When his aunt’s friend suddenly lost consciousness and fell from her kayak into the water, Ben wasted no time in rushing over to help.

“My aunty’s friend started swaying on the kayak and I thought something didn’t look right, then she closed her eyes and fell into the water,” said Ben. He immediately paddled over to her, jumped out of his own kayak and took hold of her. “She was face down in the water so I grabbed her and raised her up as best I could. Then I flagged down a nearby paddle boarder to come and help me.”

Luke Passmore and Ben Properjohn with their Bravery AwardsLuke Passmore, who was paddling nearby, didn’t hesitate to respond to Ben’s call for help. Together, Ben and Luke managed to get the woman up onto the paddleboard and into the recovery position, calling out for other bystanders to ring an ambulance. As they paddled her towards the boat ramp, she began to cough up water and slowly became responsive. 

“The boat ramp was a fair way away, so it took us a while to get her there,” said Ben. “By the time we were there and got her out of the water she had started to regain consciousness. The ambulance was already there so they looked after her.”

It was later determined that the woman had an undiagnosed heart issue which had caused her collapse. Ben was just 15 years old at the time but impressively kept his wits about him, staying calm and reacting swiftly during the first aid emergency.

“This was the first time I’d ever experienced anything like that, but I think I reacted quite calmly because I did have a lot of experience with swimming and had also done first aid training through my Nan who teaches first aid and CPR,” said Ben. Ben’s nan, Sue Howard, is a Royal Life Saving WA trainer and is incredibly proud of the way he handled himself in the situation!

Ben and Luke received Royal Life Saving Bravery Awards for their efforts, with Ben receiving a Gold Star award and Luke a Bravery Commendation. Their quick response to the situation and first aid skills were pivotal in returning the woman safely to shore, where she went on to make a full recovery.

If you know someone who has saved a life, why not nominate them for a Royal Life Saving Bravery Award? Find out more at the link below.

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