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Beach Grit

Interview: How to save a life!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Joel Trist, the man who saved Brett Connellan's life, is a true hero!

You have read about the very talented young surfer, Brett Connellan, who was bitten on the thigh by a shark at Bombo Beach on Australia’s east coast three days ago. The news reported:

A young surfer was lucky to survive a horrific shark ­attack last night after his left thigh was ripped off at Bombo Beach near Kiama on the south coast.

It was only the heroic and quick-thinking actions of a fellow boardrider — who dragged his mate to shore and stemmed the gushing blood flow — that saved the 22-year-old’s life.

That heroic, quick-thinking boardrider is high school teacher Joel Trist and I caught up with him while he waits for his friend to go in for surgery.

Chas: How are you?

Joel: It’s been a tough couple days for sure but everything’s pretty positive so far. Brett’s going in for fairly extensive surgery, eight or nine hours. The main goal is to try and save his leg, try and rebuild it.

C: Walk me through the attack.

J: So we were out at Bombo beach maybe ten minutes to seven in the afternoon. I was going to go for a bit of a paddle with my girlfriend, Agie. Brett called though so we decided to go with him. It was the first time she ever watched us surf. I was down the beach a bit from him when all of a sudden I heard this screaming. I paddled up to him as fast as I could.

C: Was it a bad scene when you arrived? Did you know?

J: Yeah, it was pretty horrific. I asked him, “How is it?” and he said, “Not good.” He was still quite conscious at that point, obviously in a massive state of shock but all there. I put him on my board and started paddling. There is sort of a left and a right and we got stuck in the rip for a minute. Luckily a big set wave came through, though, and washed us up to shore. When we finally got to the beach I was really freaking out. The shark had cut his leg rope so I grabbed it and wrapped it around his leg as tightly as I could. He was slipping in and out of consciousness and I was screaming at him, “Stay with me, mate!” Agie was sitting on the sand and she ran halfway toward us then realized what was happening and called the lifesavers. A helicopter came maybe 15-20 minutes later and lifted him out.

C: Did you know first aid or was it all instinct?

J: I’m a high school teacher so luckily have been trained in a bit of first aid but it was mostly instinct.

C: Did the leg rope tourniquet work? Did it stop all the blood flow right away?

J: Amazingly yeah. Four other guys came running down and we had maybe four leg ropes on him and a vest and we stopped it.

C: What now?

J: So we are starting a trust account to help Brett out. He could have a long road back. It is mostly through Instagram @surfersforbretto and the hashtag #surfersforbretto and you can find all the info there.

If you are inclined to give, it is Brett Connellan Trust BSB: 012709 Account number: 298964661

And Joel is an amazing friend indeed.

P.S. It is also Brett’s birthday so…..

Hibbits from JTrist on Vimeo.