Man tells of fight to save brother

FULL OF LIFE: Grant William Palmer lost the use of his right arm in a motorbike accident in 2005, but it never held him back.
FULL OF LIFE: Grant William Palmer lost the use of his right arm in a motorbike accident in 2005, but it never held him back.

Deane Palmer ditched his jet ski and leapt into heavy surf to try to save his unconscious brother.

He dragged Grant William Palmer, 45, to shore at the mouth of the Waimakariri River and fought to revive him.

Yet yesterday the Christchurch man rejected any suggestion his unsuccessful bid to save his "full of life" younger brother on Sunday was heroic.

"A hero would have saved him," he said.

Because of a motorbike accident in 2005, Grant Palmer only had the use of his left arm to hold onto his brother's jet ski, after he came off his own in the waves.

The two brothers and a friend, all experienced jet skiers and wearing life jackets, had set out from the Waimakariri River about 10.15am. They planned to jet ski south towards New Brighton.

Deane Palmer and the friend cleared the surf, but looked back to see Grant Palmer's jet ski floating without him on it.

Spotting Grant Palmer in the water about 50 metres away, Deane Palmer rode over.

"He said, ‘It's really cold . . . You need to help me'," Palmer said.

He grabbed his brother and tried to hold him onto his jet ski, but the waves separated them.

"I kept getting back to him, but he was just right in the surf. He couldn't have been in a worse spot. It was terrifying."

His brother started "fading" from the cold. "One last wave hit", leaving him face down in the sea.

"That's when I had to get in the water," Deane Palmer said.

"I remember just grabbing him. I just dragged him to shore, trying to wave people down."

As he got close to shore, a member of public waded out and helped.

Palmer started CPR. Another passer-by took over, but paramedics later pronounced Grant dead.

Yesterday, Palmer said he wanted to celebrate his brother's life, not focus on the way he died.

"You've never seen a guy so full of life," he said.

Losing the use of his right arm in the motorbike accident "never held him back", Palmer said.

The Pines Beach man flew radio controlled aeroplanes, sailed model boats and jet skied most summer days.

Karl Palmer, 25, said his father was an "incredible and inspirational" man, who loved telling stories, made people laugh and cherished his labrador dogs as he did his three sons, Karl, Shane and Max.

After his motorbike accident, Grant Palmer taught himself to write with his left hand, and won awards for his handmade planes and boats.

His disability meant he could no longer ride motorbikes. He found "solace" in jet skiing, Karl Palmer said.

"That was his baby. He was all about water safety. Unfortunately all the safety precautions in the world couldn't help him."

He wore a wetsuit and a windproof jacket on Sunday, but never expected to end up in the water.

Karl Palmer was proud of Deane Palmer's rescue efforts.

"He almost gave up his own life to try and save him. If he wasn't there, he would never have been found.

"Our family would like to make sure people are aware of what can happen [in the sea], even to fully able people," Karl Palmer said.

Police have referred the death to the coroner. Grant Palmer's funeral will be held on Thursday.

The Press