Irish tourist rescued at Josephine Falls.
Irish tourist rescued at Josephine Falls.

Teen screamed ‘help me’ as water swept her away

THE bravery and quick-thinking action of an off-duty lifeguard has saved a young woman from drowning in a rapidly rising torrent at Josephine Falls.

Sheryl Baker was enjoying what was meant to be a relaxing family day out on Friday, when in an instant, terror set in as her daughter's friend Rachel Townsend could be heard screaming for help as the current swept her away.

 

A woman has been saved from drowning at Josephine Falls by an off duty lifeguard. Photo of the river taken by Sheryl Baker before the near drowning incident.
A woman has been saved from drowning at Josephine Falls by an off duty lifeguard. Photo of the river taken by Sheryl Baker before the near drowning incident.

"We were standing on the platform and I remember it so clearly, my girlfriend said, 'oh sh*t, oh sh*t' and there were these guys who just bolted after her," she said.

"She was screaming all the way down 'help me, help me' and she just happened to find a branch wedged under a rock … if that branch had not been there, God knows where she would have ended up."

 

MORE NEWS

New theories in disappearance of five people in Torres Strait

Colder than usual? It's all in your head, weather figures show

Brave nurses praised after backpacker allegedly stabbed

 

Irish tourist Rachel Townsend was swimming at Josephine Falls when she was swept downstream while trying to exit the water. She was saved by an off duty life saver who was visiting the falls. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Irish tourist Rachel Townsend was swimming at Josephine Falls when she was swept downstream while trying to exit the water. She was saved by an off duty life saver who was visiting the falls. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

 

Ms Baker said the rapidly rising water took the visiting swimmer from Ireland by surprise and she admits little attention was paid to a new warning system at the popular swimming hole.

"We had not paid any attention to the warning device and the next minute she was sucked down that middle section and off she went," Ms Baker said.

"It was a really scary experience and one I never want go through again."

Watching the events unfold were two men that sprang into action after hearing Ms Townsend scream for help.

"They tried to form a human chain to try and get out to her but that was not successful," she said.

"(Then) he got over to her and got her up on a rock and she put her arms around his neck like Superman."

"One was an actual lifesaver but they are all heroes."

 

SUBSCRIPTION OFFER: $5 A MONTH FOR FIRST THREE MONTHS

 

Rachel Townsend with her parents Tommy Townsend and Michelle Townsend, who were at the falls with Rachel but not swimming. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Rachel Townsend with her parents Tommy Townsend and Michelle Townsend, who were at the falls with Rachel but not swimming. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Fifteen-year-old Ms Townsend was taken to Babinda Hospital and has since made a full recovery.

Ms Baker, from Brinsmead, said she had lived in the Far North long enough to have heard about the dangers of flash flooding but just didn't understand how quickly conditions could change.

"When we looked back after the event the rocks were all submerged and they were all out of the water when we got there. It was amazing," she said.

 

Queensland Parks and Wildlife services have installed warning signs at Josephine Falls, north of Innisfail, which indicate to swimmers when it is safe to swim. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Queensland Parks and Wildlife services have installed warning signs at Josephine Falls, north of Innisfail, which indicate to swimmers when it is safe to swim. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

"I don't think I will be going back there any time soon. None of us will ever forget."

A recently installed warning system including flashing red lights was a recommendation that came out of a coronial inquest into the drowning deaths of Korean tourist Youngeun Kim in 2018 and Thomas Hunt in 2016.



Mate’s assault ‘cowardly’ with metal bar to back of head

premium_icon Mate’s assault ‘cowardly’ with metal bar to back of head

‘This young man was his friend … where’s the apology?’

Have a ‘snowy’ Christmas with variation of a favourite tree

premium_icon Have a ‘snowy’ Christmas with variation of a favourite tree

Rocky Councillor Neil Fisher talks about one of this favourite trees.

Rockhampton foster carer hit child in the face

premium_icon Rockhampton foster carer hit child in the face

A MEMBER of the Australian Army who received medals for his service has fronted...