A man had a lucky escape yesterday afternoon when he was rescued from the water by four onlookers. Photo / Paul Taylor
Struggling in the surf and swallowing water, Yusuke Sugiyama's life hung in the balance.
His body turned grey as he was dragged from the coast near Richmond Rd, Clive at about 4.45pm yesterday.
The 29-year-old had gone to the beach in the hope of collecting mussels, but the current proved too strong for the usually confident swimmer.
"The tide was very fast and I tried to swim back but suddenly my left leg cramped, and my right leg didn't work properly. I couldn't swim, he said.
"I became a little bit panicked, I drank a lot of the salt water and I couldn't breathe. I was breathing but I couldn't get air."
He says he couldn't think of anything other than the fact he wanted to live.
His cries for help alerted two nearby fishermen; Tim Carrington and Kerry Butcher.
Carrington estimated he had been in the water for about an hour.
"He was only about 50 metres off shore. We actually couldn't understand what he was saying but we knew it was a distress call."
Just days earlier he had put a rope, blanket and first aid kit in his ute, in case something like this would happen. The rope turned out to be Sugiyama's lifeline.
While he called 111, Butcher approached Czech couple; Alena Pendlova and Sctanislav Necesal, who were running to the water.
As someone who can't swim well, Butcher decided it was best to stay out of the water.
"Luckily that young couple swam out, put the rope around him and dragged him in. I helped them through the breakers to get the guy up on the beach. He was very unwell."
He doesn't consider himself a hero. "We just did what needed to be done."
"We put him in the recovery position and he was grey - a horrible colour. And while we were waiting for the police to turn up, he was just bringing up water," Carrington said.
They were talking to him, making sure they didn't lose him.
"It was a team effort but all credit goes to those two czech tourists. If none of us were there, that guy wouldn't have been here now."
Sugiyama, originally from Japan, has a holiday working visa, and has been in the country for four months.
He came to the region because he is interested in fishing and wants to become more fluent in English.
Senior Constable Andy Clinton says when police arrived on scene just after 5pm to find Sugiyama unresponsive.
"I have to admit, I feared the worst. However, thankfully, he was able to be revived," Clinton said.
"I have no doubt that if it wasn't for the actions of those people we would have had another drowning statistic on our hands."
Sugiyama was taken to hospital in a serious condition and discharged today.
Although he felt sore and tired, Sugiyama today made the trip back to the same spot to thank his rescuers.