Cafe owner saves man blown into harbour

SHABNAM DASTGHEIB
Last updated 16:33 09/06/2012
Gerry Foxley
Ross giblin/ FAIRFAX NZ
GERRY FOXLEY: "I wanted to save him, I knew he was going to drown."

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One of Wellington's notoriously brutal gusts of wind is being blamed for blowing a non-swimmer into the harbour this morning, though luckily help in the form of a coffee-serving hero was not far away.

Shag coffee-cart owner Gerry Foxley was working on the waterfront when two women came frantically running towards him and asking for help, yelling that a man had fallen into the harbour.

Though a few other people were standing around, unsure of what to do, the cafe owner, in his sixties, didn't think twice about jumping in the cold water.

''He was going under and he was drowning and I thought - Jesus. I jumped in straight away and he grabbed me, as I knew he would. I flung him on his back and pulled him over to the nearest ladder and we had to push him and pull him to get him up.''

Mr Foxley said the man was yelling that he couldn't swim before he went under and he knew he had to act swiftly, not even pausing to remove his clothes.

Ambulance was alerted to the incident just after 10.20am. The man was taken to Wellington Hospital where he was being assessed and discharged this afternoon.

Mr Foxley said bystanders told him the wind had knocked the man into the water. ''I wanted to save him, I knew he was going to drown, there was nothing surer. He was yelling that he couldn't swim before he went under. Everyone that was there said to me 'man you are the man'.''

Walkwise officer Paul Perkins, whose job it is to patrol the street keeping an eye out for trouble, arrived just after the man had fallen in.

He said there was no doubt Mr Foxley saved the man's life. ''Not bad for an old guy, a few people just panicked but he was the guy who actually acted. What a bit of a hero, he's a tough guy obviously. It's little things like that which need to be noticed.''

Mr Perkins said he did not see the man fall in though it would have been ''a heck of a wind to do that''. He said many people had not seen the man fall but said they had only heard a big splash.

Witness Vernon Puddick sat with the man until emergency services arrived and said he was ''in a bad way. He was pretty cold and he was keeping up above water but he wasn't in very long because fortunately the other chap jumped in and got him.''

Mr Puddick said Mr Foxley's actions were very ''game on''.

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- The Dominion Post

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