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Rescued siblings meet saviour 50 years on from near death at Bondi Icebergs

Grateful siblings: Near drowning victims Gary Beggs (left), Les Hawkins (centre) and sister Judith Beggs at Bondi Icebergs. Clipping: A news clipping of near drowning victims Gary Beggs and sister Judith Beggs
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Girl rescued: Near drownings at Bondi Icebergs.

Grateful siblings: Near drowning victims Gary Beggs (left), Les Hawkins (centre) and sister Judith Beggs at Bondi Icebergs.

Grateful siblings: Near drowning victims Gary Beggs (left), Les Hawkins (centre) and sister Judith Beggs at Bondi Icebergs.

Grateful siblings: Near drowning victims Gary Beggs (left), Les Hawkins (centre) and sister Judith Beggs at Bondi Icebergs.

Standing in the ocean pool at Bondi Icebergs, screaming frantically, Tina Beggs felt certain she had lost two children. Her sister-in law and onlookers looked on in horror. It was December 3, 1964.

Beggs, with her husband and four children, had come to Bondi for a holiday from Trangie, in the central west of NSW, but decided it would be safer to take the kids to the baths, rather than the beach.

In an instant, it all went horribly wrong. Judith, who was six at the time, fell into a pool that was being drained. The massive suction pulled her straight into the drainage pipe. Her older brother Gary, 8, jumped in and dived down to save her.

Tina, also jumped in to search for Judith. She then realised Gary had not surfaced. Horrified, she found his head was being sucked into the pipe and he could not free himself.

Trying to pull him out to no avail, Tina feared for the worst.

Les Hawkins, and other Icebergs swimmers who were on the spot at the time had the difficult task of trying to extract the boy, whose body had been made slippery from the slime of the drain.

Thinking quickly, they opened the pool’s drain completely. This allowed him to be pulled through the pipe onto the rocks between the ocean and the pool.

It took 10 minutes of anxious resuscitation, with the help of an off duty nurse, to revive the unconscious child.

Then, Tina saw her daughter Judith, covered in blood, but still alive.

“Judy had slipped through the pipe, ending up on the rocks below. I am ever to this day thankful that she was strong enough to climb up the steps and we were able to know she was still alive. It was quite a feat for such a little girl,” Tina told Fairfax Media last week. “The next six hours were very stressful, not knowing if Gary would be okay after being underwater for so long.”

However, both Gary and Tina made a full recovery.

Last week, the Beggs returned to Bondi Icebergs almost 50 years after their dramatic rescue.

The siblings came from Dubbo, where they now live, to be reunited with Hawkins.

Gary cannot remember much of the day, but the traumatic nature of what happened and how close he came to tragedy remains with him.

“I just blacked out. I can remember waking up in hospital and hearing about this boy on the radio who almost drowned. Then I realised they were talking about me, and I started to cry, because I could just as easily have died.”

Meeting one of those who saved him was equally affecting.

“To now know that after he helped keep me alive until I was delivered to the hospital emergency medical team, Les left the hospital wearing his `cossies’ and covered in a large amount of my blood, and was offered a lift back to the pool by passing police, says so much to me about the man.

Sadly Les has since suffered a stroke but had no difficulty communicating that he could remember this significant event fully.

The two siblings presented Les with a medal and some flowers to show their appreciation, but they say it doesn’t come close how indebted they feel to him for saving their lives.

“I always knew I was lucky to be alive for the last 50 years but I don’t think I realised how lucky until now.

“I came away from this meeting with a greater appreciation and understanding of what I and others went through on that fateful day, and the amount of effort and dedication that went into saving my life.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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