Port Elizabeth lifesaver, Luke McCracken, honoured for heroic night rescue

JULY 28, 2016

Former KZN based lifesaver, Luke McCracken (20), who relocated to Port Elizabeth at the beginning of 2016 and is currently training at Prodive, has been recognised for heroic bravery by Lifesaving SA's Bravery Awards Committee after he carried out a daring and brave rescue at Zinkwazi Beach, on the KZN north coast, where he was working as a lifeguard during the December holidays.

According to Stanford Slabbert, Convenor at Bravery Awards Committee, Lifesaving South Africa; "In the early hours of Thursday, 31st December 2015, off-duty lifeguard and Marine SLC member, Luke was awoken at 4am and told of a drowning in progress at the nearby Zinkwazi Beach, on the Kwazulu Natal north coast.

"Luke immediately drove to the beach, grabbed a Malibu board, and went out into the pitch darkness in search of the missing matriculant.

"Using the outgoing rip, Luke negotiated his way through the large surf and once beyond the backline, he began searching. After a while he heard cries for help and he eventually found the 18 year-old teenager, who was exhausted and cramping up. After battling to load the youngster onto the board, he realised it was full of water and sinking."

A large freak wave broke on them and Luke managed to grab hold of the youngster in the turbulence and get him back to the surface. The board had vanished and Luke started the long swim back towards the beach, holding the patient by one arm. They were continuously pummelled by the large waves, which also washed them closer to the beach.

"Luke kept hold of his patient in the difficult situation and managed to find a gap in the rocks to pull the youngster onto the beach and safety. It was still dark and the rescued youngster was checked by Paramedics and found to be unharmed after the harrowing incident," said Slabbert.

"This Certificate of Commendation is awarded to Luke for unhesitatingly going in search of the missing teenager, in the darkness, and for saving him from an almost certain death by drowning.

"It was an extremely dangerous situation and Luke is congratulated on his brave rescue effort, which is in keeping with the high ideals of rescue and service which Lifesaving South Africa endeavours to promote and practice. We salute you!”

Luke will be joined by his parents, who relocated to St Francis Bay in June, at the presentation. He will receive his Bravery Award from Lifesaving SA President, Dylan Tommy.

The presentation coincides with the East Cape Surf Lifesaving Associations AGM, which will follow the presentation.

Luke’s daring rescue has resulted in him being nominated for two international Bravery Awards, the RLSS Mountbatten Medal, and the International Lifesaving Rescue Medal of Valour. Results of these two nominations will only be known in September.

Image: Luke and the teenager he rescued. supplied