08 Dec Survivor’s message. ‘Please play it safe by the water this Summer’
Eighteen year-old Kasey Buck will celebrate Christmas this year with her family, but had it not been for a bit of luck and a good samaritan there’d be an empty seat at their table.
Kasey has become a passionate advocate for water safety after her near drowning at Warrnambool in September. She is urging locals and visitors to the region to play it safe by the water this Summer and do their part to spare the region another drowning tragedy.
A split-second decision to rescue her dog AJ from the Hopkins River mouth on Saturday, September 5 very nearly claimed Kasey’s life. Despite being an accomplished swimmer, the power of the current caught the Timboon resident completely off guard.
“It was a nice day and my sister Samantha (19) and I decided to take our dog AJ to the river for a play – he’d never been to that beach before,” she said.
“We were playing fetch…throwing the ball in the water and he’d jump in, get it and bring it back. We threw it a bit far out to where the water was flowing out to sea and he went out to get it, but couldn’t get back in.
“My sister tried to get him first but couldn’t, so I dropped everything and ran in in all my clothes. The sand sank, I lost my footing and ended up in the river.
“I got to AJ and was trying to push him back to the sand, but we got stuck and washed out further. We got separated and were washed out. He ended up getting back to shore, but I was out a bit further and waves were crashing over me by then.”
Kasey used to swim competitively and loves the water, but said the undertow was too strong for her and she quickly tired and knew she was in trouble.
“It felt like I was out there for ages, but I think it was only about 20 minutes. It was shallow in spots, but I was so weak I couldn’t even stand up…if it wasn’t the undertow pulling me out, it was the waves crashing over me. I just couldn’t get to the shore,” she said.
“Luckily the conditions changed and all of a sudden it calmed and a guy was able to walk out on the reef, calm me down and I got to him. He pulled me up onto the rocks. Had he not been there, it would have been a different story for me.”
Kasey said she was about 100 metres from where the ordeal started, but she wasn’t able to walk back. The SES came and put her on a quadbike and transported her to an awaiting ambulance in the car park.
“All I remember was Samantha screaming – when I was in the water that’s all I could hear. I was taken to accident and emergency. I’m a type one diabetic as well and my ketones had spiked from the stress,” she said.
“They took me for X-rays and ultrasounds to check my lungs for sea water. They did observations for a few hours and then mum was allowed to take me home. I was lucky.”
Kasey said she didn’t sleep the first night, had some flashbacks at times but was determined to continue her love of swimming and would return to the water this Summer.
“Everyone says ‘you don’t go in after your dog’ but in that moment I just did. The conditions weren’t what I thought and as much as I’m a good swimmer, I was overpowered,” she said.
“I suppose my message to anyone around the water is to respect its power, never swim alone and to make everyone’s job easier by heading to patrolled beaches where help is right there if you get into trouble.”
Fifty-seven of Victoria’s most popular beaches are patrolled by lifesavers during the summer months, through until Easter. Information about patrolled beach locations, and times, is available on the Beachsafe website: www.beachsafe.org.au