13 year old girl dies trying to save her brother
TRAGEDY struck on Thursday night when 13 year-old Holly Nicholson drowned while trying to save her younger brother, Sam, from the surf at Williamsons Beach near Wonthaggi.
The Wonthaggi Secondary College Year 8 student swam out to save Sam at around 8pm.
Holly’s family and paramedics attempted to revive her but she died at the scene.
Sam was taken to hospital with a possible fracture in his neck.
Holly’s father Harry Mastnak told the Herald Sun he was proud of his brave girl, who they believe died in the arms of her brother as they were in the waves.
“Apparently my son hung on to her as long as he could and she went limp in his arms and he had to let her go otherwise he would have drowned himself,” Harry said.
“He said he didn’t want to let her go, but …
“My daughter was a very brave young woman who had an undying love for her brother.
“How we’ll recover is beyond me.”
The family visited the beach so mother Julie-Anne Nicholson could bath in salt water to relieve symptoms of psoriasis – a skin condition.
Holly was standing in knee-deep water with her mother when a rip developed and Sam was swept away from waist-deep water.
Despite calls from her father and brother to remain at the shore, Holly bravely entered the water to try rescue him.
Harry and Julie-Anne ran into the water but strong waves and deep water forced them back to shore.
They desperately searched for any sight of the pair before Julie-Anne realised her phone had been destroyed by the water.
Harry made a dash to the car park about 500 to 700m away to grab his phone and a passer-by in the car park rang 000.
He quickly returned to the beach to continue the search for his children.
“Something made me go out into the surf at a particular point. I waded up to about my chest deep in the water, getting pounded by waves,” he told the Herald Sun.
“By some miracle I saw my son’s head bobbing up and down in the waves directly in front of me.
“I swam out, grabbed him by the hand and pulled him in and he was able to walk.
“I went back out to the same spot and I found my daughter’s body floating at my feet.
“My wife and I dragged her to the shore. I administered CPR until emergency services got there.”
An investigation has begun into why it took 41 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the scene after the original 000 call at 8.20pm.
It’s believed the call went to the Police Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) as a search and rescue job, and an ambulance was only dispatched after
Holly’s heart valve and tissue will be donated to save the lives of other children.
“If anything comes from this tragedy and she can give life back somehow, then her life wasn’t taken in vain,” Harry said.
“She had that nature in her to help other kids around her, so I think that’s what she would have wanted.”
A kind and caring student
Staff and students at Wonthaggi Secondary College were shattered on Friday morning as they remembered a gentle and caring student.
Principal Garry Dennis said Holly endeared herself to all those around her – students and staff.
“The huge impact she had on our school is being reflected in the response to the news that we’ve had here today,” he said.
“She was a very kind and caring student. She was someone who was always concerned with the welfare of others.
“She will be remembered by classmates as an amazing friend who always helped others, kind and loving and always found a way to make others feel good.
“Holly was very close to a lot of our staff. She was involved in a program where she dealt very closely with a small group of staff who developed a very close relationship with her.”
A number of counsellors were available at the school on Friday and Mr Dennis said the support for students and staff had moved him.
“We had a number of students who were extremely upset and a number of staff that were extremely upset. We had some students who already knew and didn’t arrive today.
“I think what I was most proud of in our school today was the support that students showed for each other.
“For a lot of students who didn’t know Holly, you walked around the school today and there was an atmosphere of absolute quiet and respect, which was really nice.
“The school will do all it can to support family and friends.”
Life Saving Victoria spokesman Paul Shannon said it’s a tragic reminder that all beaches can be dangerous.
“We urge people to swim at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags wherever possible,” Mr Shannon said.
“Read safety signs to understand dangers and be aware and prepared for conditions.
“Never swim alone and ensure your swimming ability is appropriate for the conditions.”