TEENAGE lifesaver Isabella Jones has been praised for rescuing three people who were drowning at Lighthouse Beach in Ballina just before 5pm on Sunday.
The surf patrol was preparing to pack up after a "pretty quiet day" at Lighthouse Beach when a strong current swept a woman and two young girls outside of the safety flags.
Isabella, 14, said the swimmers were in trouble "underneath the break" and were being swept towards the treacherous rocks area around the Lighthouse Beach lookout.
"I think it was just a really big set so they got smashed a few times and dumped," she explained.
Isabella grabbed her board and plunged into the surf with her two colleagues, Nathan Stelzer and Steve Brown, following with their rescue tubes.
Isabella admitted she was "pretty scared" when she reached the swimmers but then her training kicked in.
"I just told them to get on the board but they were screaming at me, 'we can't get on, we can't reach'.
"So I pulled the younger ones on with my right arm and then the older lady started drifting away so I had to jump over the board and grab her as well."
Isabella received her surf rescue certificate at the age of 13 and this is only her second season as a lifeguard.
Patrol captain Rod Balk said it was a great effort by Isabella to rescue three people at once.
"I actually sent three lifesavers in because we usually send one lifesaver per patient, but Isabella was the first one to reach them and she managed to help all three onto her board.
"I've been doing this for a while and I've never seen that happen before," he said.
Mr Balk praised each of the lifesavers for fulfilling their specific roles within the rescue and also for providing first aid assistance once the rescue was complete.
"I'm really proud of the whole team. Each member had their job and carried out the rescue and following treatment in a textbook manner," he said.
The three swimmers had to wear spinal braces and be placed on oxygen after the rescue.
They were later taken to Ballina District Hospital as a precaution but were released a short time later.
Isabella shrugged off suggestions she was a hero and said the rescue should serve as a reminder to swimmers to practise their swimming strokes and swim only at patrolled beaches.
Staying safe in the water
- Always swim between the flags.
- Don't swim at dusk and don't swim alone.
- Don't swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- If you get into trouble in the water, stay calm. Signal for help, float and wait for assistance.