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Quick-thinking rescuers receive awards

Date

Larissa Nicholson

Zartash Sarwar nearly drowned last year, but the quick thinking of rescuers meant lingering back pain is her only lasting health problem.

A school friend and an off-duty firefighter rescued the 13-year-old after she fell into the flooded Yerrabi Pond in Gungahlin in October, while another friend called for help.

On Tuesday the four gathered near the site of the rescue, as 14-year-olds Emily de Gier and Tessa Blight, and firefighter Neil Maher were honoured for saving Ms Sarwar.

At the ACT Water Safety Awards, Mr Maher was presented a bravery cross and CPR medal, Ms de Gier a bravery cross and Ms Blight a president's commendation.

Police officer Paul Reynolds helped resuscitate Ms Sarwar and he too received a CPR medal.

Ms Sarwar was walking by Yerrabi Pond with friends last year when she lost her footing and fell in. Ms de Gier and Ms Blight tried to grab hold of her but they too fell into the quickly moving waterway.

Ms de Gier and Ms Blight were able to make it to safety, but Ms Sarwar remained under water.

In a split-second decision, Ms de Gier returned to the water to grab hold of her friend while Ms Blight called emergency services.

It was then Mr Maher, an off-duty fireman, happened to hear their screams, and rescued both girls, bringing them to the bank. It was only when that he got them to safety that he realised Ms de Gier was holding on to Ms Sarwar, who had been under water.

Mr Maher said he had simply acted on instinct when he stripped to his underwear and plunged into the water to save the girls.

''It's all a bit overwhelming and a bit humbling I suppose, it's nice to be recognised … but the reward of seeing the girls afterwards and seeing that they pulled through, and seeing the look on their families, nothing could match that,''he said.

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