Schoolboy saves dad from drowning

19:26, Jan 14 2013
Liam Mehlhopt and his grandmother, Elaine Mehlhopt
WELL DONE: Liam Mehlhopt, 14, who saved his father from drowning at Lake Aviemore, gets a hug from his grandmother, Elaine Mehlhopt.

A Christchurch boy deserves a bravery award after saving his father's life, his great-grandmother says.

Liam Mehlhopt, 14, helped save his father from drowning last Wednesday while the extended family were on holiday at Otematata.

David Smith had decided to take son Liam and a friend swimming in Lake Aviemore after a long, hot day.

Liam and his friend swam about 70 metres to a raft in the lake, and decided to swim back a different way as windy conditions had made the outward trip tough.

"Halfway, we both encountered some difficulty. We were both going under," Liam said.

Smith, who cannot swim, jumped into the lake to help the boys out.


"I don't know how he did it; it must have been adrenaline," Liam said.

"He got us back to shore, but he couldn't get into shore himself. He was just struggling to get air and was just waving his arms around."

Liam called for help and went back into the lake to help his father, using a towel to pull him to the shore.

Otematata Volunteer Fire Brigade members quickly arrived on the scene to help, before an unconscious Smith was taken to the Kurow Medical Centre and then to Oamaru Hospital.

He was still unconscious and having seizures on Thursday morning and was airlifted to Dunedin Hospital.

Smith regained consciousness on Friday, but had trouble remembering what happened.

"Before I went to see him he thought me and my friend were dead. He didn't remember us getting out," Liam said.

Smith was expected to make a full recovery and was transferred from intensive care to a high-dependency unit on Saturday.

Liam's great-grandmother, Marie Musson, 79, who was holidaying with the family, said it had been "a pretty stressful week".

"It has been touch and go for two or three days."

She said her great-grandson's "cool head" deserved to be recognised with a bravery award. "[Smith] certainly wouldn't be here without him."

The Press