Nine-year-old thwarts drowning

By Natalie Dixon -
LIFESAVER: Grace Akroyd says her training kicked in when she rescued a friend from the surf this week.PHOTO/JOEL FORD
LIFESAVER: Grace Akroyd says her training kicked in when she rescued a friend from the surf this week.PHOTO/JOEL FORD

A 9-year-old Papamoa girl who dragged a young boy from the surf has shrugged off her hero status and says she was just doing what she has been trained to do.

Tahatai Coast School pupil Grace Akroyd was swimming at Mount Maunganui with her friends on Thursday when three large waves pummelled the group under the surface.

As her father, Greg, prepared to jump into the water and rescue the trio, he saw Grace, a member of the Mount Maunganui Surf Club, pop her head up and confidently duck back under the waves searching for her youngest friend, 7-year-old Dylan Francis.

As her other friend swam to shore, Grace continued searching around for Dylan under the waves, eventually grasping hold of one of his legs and dragging him to the surface.

"All these waves were crashing and I needed to come up but I really wanted to find Dylan," Grace told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

"So I kept on diving and felt around for him, when I felt a leg, I did not know if it was him or not but I just pulled it to the surface, then I put my arm under him to keep his head up and got him back to the sand.

"He was a bit scared and was not talking much. I think he was a bit shocked and he was coughing up lots. I think he drank a lot of sea water, but it felt good to have him back on the beach."

Grace, who has been a junior surf member at the Mount club since she was 5, told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend she did not get scared because her "training kicked in".

"It was my first rescue," she said.

"I did not feel scared at all, it felt really easy because I have been taught all the basics at the club, all my family is involved in surf lifesaving, my mum and dad and my sisters.

"One day I am hoping to be a qualified lifeguard so I can rescue more people."

Greg said he was proud of his daughter.

"I had just called the kids in when it all happened as they were getting out a bit too deep," he said.

"Waist deep is the rule, but all these waves came in quick succession. I was getting ready to go in and get them when I noticed Grace had it all under control.

"She just knew what she was doing, it was great to see all those techniques they teach the young ones at Nippers in practice.

"I was really impressed and I am so proud of her."

The rescue comes just over a year after two young Waihi boys saved a Chinese man from drowning at Waihi Beach.

Will White and Sergio Schuler, both 12, were awarded the RSA's Anzac of the Year Award by Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae in February after rescuing the man who was caught in a rip in December 2012.

Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service general manager Glenn Bradley said there were a number of young children getting involved with rescues along the coast.

"It just shows what a little bit of surf lifesaving training can do," Mr Bradley said.

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