Witness praises 18-year-old who tried to save a man during South Coast drowning

Lake Conjola. Picture: Shoalhaven Tourism.
Lake Conjola. Picture: Shoalhaven Tourism.

A Milton woman has praised the rescue effort of an 18-year-old who pulled an unconscious snorkeller lake on the NSW South Coast. 

Kelly Webb was enjoying Christmas festivities by the Lake Conjola on December 25 when the alarm was raised that a man, understood to be a 46-year-old Korean national in Australia on a student visa, was missing in the lake.

After a frantic search by family and bystanders the man was found and pulled unconscious from the water, police said.

Mrs Webb told the Milton-Ulladulla Times “everybody at the lake was in the water looking for the man, even kids, while his wife, family and three young kids sat by the lake.” 

“About 20 minutes later a young boy dragged the man from the bottom of the lake,” she said. 

“That's when everybody jumped in the water to help him, he is only 18-years-old and was the hero of the day.

“That poor boy must be still in shock today.”

Mrs Webb said bystanders tried to revive the man before emergency services arrived around 3pm. Despite the best efforts to save the man, he was declared dead at the scene, police said.

“Sadly the man didn't make it, it was terrible, I had to break the news to the young family member that was sitting with the man’s young kids, and the police officers that were talking to his wife,” she said.

Mrs Webb said she was heartbroken for the man’s family, who were understandably distraught. 

“His wife was was in so much shock, at one point I wasn't sure if she was even remembering to breathe,” she said.

“So, if you think you’re having a bad day, spare a thought for this man’s three young kids, wife and family, I still can't believe it myself.”

Conjola Community Association president Robyn Kerves said the drowning left “a very unhappy taste in everybody’s mouth”.

Mrs Kerves feared before summer that a murky, closed lake would force visitors to use the dangerous Conjola beach.

She reminded the public of the strong, dangerous rips at the beach.

“It’s very unsafe. There are rips all along the beach,” she said.

“There’s no means of getting any rescue vehicle or boat onto our beach with a closed lake.”

A report will be prepared for the coroner police said.