Boy sucked down drain
By STEPHANIE FORESTER
JAKE Mulders thought he was going to die when a whirlpool sucked him 35 metres through a drain at South Golden Beach.
Jake, 11, and his mate, Luke Budd, 11, were canoeing in the canal near the Kallaroo Road bund after heavy rains last Saturday.
They beached their canoe when they spotted a plastic bottle spinning in a tiny whirlpool the width of a tennis ball.
"Then we started dropping glass bottles into the whirlpool to see if they'd come up. They didn't," he said yesterday.
"Then we saw a tyre and made it into a boat.
"We pushed it into the whirlpool and I fell in after it. I tried to pull myself out. Instead the whirlpool pulled me in."
Jake thought he was dead.
He closed his eyes, made himself straight as an arrow and 'didn't think about anything much'.
"I thought I was going to die. I just hoped I was in the right pipe," he said.
"Two pipes go under the road and the other looks like a stormwater pipe. It doesn't come out.
"I opened my eyes under there and it was all green.
"Then I closed them again. It was very scary."
Luke also thought Jake was dead.
"I waited for him to come up and he didn't," he said.
"I didn't know what I was going to tell his mum and dad."
Fortunately for Jake, he took a breath before he went under.
"I ran out of breath just before I came out," he said.
"I popped out in the same place as the tyre. I held onto it for a while to get my breath, and then I yelled to Luke.
"Then I went and tried to find my hat."
Jake's parents, Simon and Gay Mulders, were stunned by the near-tragedy.
"At first I couldn't believe it," said Gay.
"He was so lucky there was no grate blocking the end of the pipe and no branches caught inside.
"The kids play down at the canal all the time. It never occurred to us it was dangerous."
While Simon and Gay are not blaming Byron Shire Council, they do believe the council now has a 'duty of care' to ensure the safety of local kids.
The council's general manager, Pamela Westing, said the council was treating the incident seriously.
"Obviously there could have been a very different outcome," she said.
"We'll certainly be doing what we can to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Ms Westing said it was too early to say what action the council would take.