Girl, 7, saves toddler from drowning

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 08:07 14/12/2012
Madeleine Johnson-Marsh
MARYKE PENMAN
RESCUE PRODIGY: Oteha Valley School student Madeleine Johnson-Marsh, 7, saved a baby from drowning at Browns Bay Beach.

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A seven-year-old girl saved a toddler from drowning at an Auckland beach as the child's mother couldn't because she had a phobia of the sea.  

Oteha Valley School student Madeleine Johnson-Marsh instinctively rushed to the aid of a small girl lying face down in the shallows at Browns Bay Beach on Sunday. 

She pulled the child from the water and carried her back to her mother who was watching on in hysterics, her mother Teresa Marsh said.

At first the child was non-responsive but coughed up salty water and sand after being tapped on the back.

The beach was packed with people but nobody else noticed the child was drowning, Marsh said.

"At first I was really cross with the mother. She went down to the water's edge but then retreated back and it looked like she didn't want to get her pants wet."

Later the mother returned to thank Madeleine and expressed her fear of the sea.

"I kept trying to fathom why she wouldn't have grabbed her but it was clear she had a real phobia, not a rational fear," Marsh said.

When asked why she rushed to the baby's aid, brave Madeleine told her mother she had no other choice. 

"She needed help. I couldn't just leave her there," she said.

The Asian family were not dressed for swimming , Marsh said.

"The baby toddled down to the water and we could see she was a bit doddery on her feet.

"She was splashing about in two to three inches of water, but a small wave came in and was enough to knock her over. She was lying face down for about 10 seconds."

Madeleine, who was playing on dry sand just metres away, raced into the water without sparing a second thought, Marsh said.

"She's been having swimming lessons and we often go out to Piha to boogie board so she's confident in the water.

"We are very proud she showed that initiative."

Marsh said her daughter was "pretty chuffed" she was able to save the baby and had gotten some recognition as a result. 

But she brushed aside comments Madeleine was a hero.

"Although it is nice for people to say things like 'you're a hero', at the end of the day the important thing is that she saved that baby's life. It's not about being a hero."

The incident follows three drownings at Browns Bay Beach in the past decade.

In 2002 Frank Fieldhouse, 74, died after attempting to rescue two boys in trouble 15 metres from the shore.

Two years later siblings Christie, 16, and Joshua Robinson, 7, died while boogie boarding with their sister Tabitha who survived the ordeal.

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Temporary lifeguard patrols have since been set up at the beach from December 24 to February 6 each year.

- North Shore Times

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