Boys rescue friend from pool bottom

Last updated 05:00 29/01/2012
Luke Rathgen
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ

LUCKY: Luke Rathgen, centre, with rescuers Jack Dawson, left, and Dylan Flatman.

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A day at the pool almost ended in tragedy for nine-year-old Luke Rathgen but the quick thinking of two friends saved his life.

Luke, Jack Dawson, nine, and Dylan Flatman, 10, were swimming in Canterbury's Southbridge Community Pool on Friday last week.

The boys from Leeston, south-west of Christchurch, dubbed the "three musketeers" by their parents, had been in the water just under two hours when Luke struck problems about 3.45pm. He remembers little of what happened – only that he was in deep water, and could not call out to a lifeguard.

A boy swimming nearby noticed Luke was missing, and spotted him underwater. Jack and Dylan shot into action, diving to the bottom of the pool and pulling Luke to the surface. "He was right at the bottom at the deep end," Dylan said.

"We dragged him to the top and helped him float."

The boys attracted the attention of lifeguards, who rushed to revive Luke, who was unconscious.

By the time St John paramedics and the Westpac rescue helicopter had arrived, Luke was conscious and talking to his friends and father, David Rathgen, who had raced to the pool when he heard the news.

David said Luke had coped better than he did, reminding the paramedics he was allergic to penicillin, which his father had forgotten. Rathgen and his son flew by helicopter to Christchurch Hospital, where Luke's mother, Lee Rathgen, who had been in the city that afternoon, was waiting to meet them.

Luke spent the night in hospital under observation.

He was discharged the next day, and back with friends Jack and Dylan on Sunday afternoon.

"I've told him he doesn't have to go to such extremes next time if he wants to fly in a helicopter," David Rathgen joked.

The boys had been supervised at the pool. Dylan's father, Nigel Flatman, had been swimming with them for more than one and a half hours before he got out to watch from the side. He missed seeing Luke struggling in the water.

Luke said he planned to return to the water with his pals when the football season ended in about six months.

Selwyn District Council aquatic facilities manager Kathy Moore said she was delighted rescue procedures had worked and that Luke had recovered so quickly.

"All the things that should be done were done, and done really well. You cannot fault the lifeguards."

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