Gordon Gunther reunites with Max Cunningham. Max is pleased to say “thank you” to his lifesaver after a close call last week.
Gordon Gunther reunites with Max Cunningham. Max is pleased to say “thank you” to his lifesaver after a close call last week.

Gordon saves Max's life

AFTER a terrifying experience in which he “nearly drowned”, holiday-maker Max Cunningham says he’s lucky to be alive – and he wants the people responsible for his rescue to know just how grateful he is.

The keen fisherman, from Taree, has been regularly visiting the Fishing Haven Resort on Palmer’s Island for the past 10 years with his wife Barbara. The riverside caravan park is the couple’s home away from home.

But when the wake from a passing boat tipped Max into the river early last week, as he was standing on the bow of his own boat while attempting to maneouvre it around a jetty at the resort, Max Cunningham came very close to drowning.

“I can’t swim,” said Mr Cunningham.

“I grew up out west, I just never learnt to do it.”

Max was faced with a terrifying fight for survival as he struggled in the water to find something to hold onto, and Barbara cried out for help.

Fellow camper Gordon Gunther, on holiday from Hervey Bay with his wife Margaret, was in his caravan nearby when he heard Barbara’s distressed calls.

“Just as I arrived, Max went under,” said Mr Gunther.

“I looked around and grabbed the only thing I could see; a hose,” he said.

By this time Max says a number of other people had gathered to help, but for him it was all a blur.

“All I can remember is the deep, black hole,” Max recalled.

“There was no bottom. It was just so black.

“I thought: That’s it. I’m finished. I’m gone.”

Luckily, Gordon was able to extend the hose far enough for Max to find a grip, and with help, Max was pulled from the water and recovered after taking a rest on the rocky bank beside the jetty.

“He’s got the best looking ankles I’ve ever seen,” said Max, recalling how he grabbed on to Mr Gunther’s legs while being pulled from the river.

While the ordeal may have left Max and Barbara a little shaken, they aren’t planning on giving up their favourite past-time of fishing and boating anytime soon.

“Now I have a life-jacket and I don’t go near the water without it,” Max said, adding that he had caught a very large bream just the day before.

But Max hasn’t forgotten the lifesaving actions of his neighbours, and on Thursday Max and Barbara once again took the opportunity to thank Gordon as they recounted the story together at the jetty.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved,” said Max.

“They saved my life.”

Statistics published by the Royal Lifesaving Society of New South Wales show 94 people, aged 55 years and over, drowned in Australian rivers, lakes and beaches, 77 per cent of whom were men.

Clarence Valley seniors had the opportunity to participate in the Grey Medallion Program, run by qualified life-saving instructors Ross and Helen Pye.

But with the funding provided by Clarence Valley Council now exhausted, Ross is calling on local organisations to support this vital initative.

“We are hoping that a few local organisations will come on board to help fund furthur workshops,” he said.

“My dream is to have one person in every household in the Clarence Valley skilled in performing CPR.”

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