Abby's 'obsession' saves family

BY GREER MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 06/10/2009
KENT BLECHYNDEN/The Dominion Post

"IT WAS LIKE THE SEA HAD GONE UP TO THE SKY": The Wutzlers Vicky and David and children Abby and Max were lucky to survive.

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As David Wutzler settled into his deckchair on a Samoan beach, he dismissed the desperate cries of his daughter warning him a tsunami was coming. Seconds later, he was swept into the surging water.

The Wellington man now credits Abby – and her fascination with natural disasters – with saving his life and those of other tourists.

The 10-year-old sprinted the length of the beach outside Litia Sini Beach Resort on Wednesday, yelling that the sea was going out and a tsunami was coming.

"I said, 'It's OK mate,' but she was beside herself." He "leisurely" began to move and was about five seconds behind her when he was engulfed in the first wave.

Faced with a sheer cliff of about four metres and rapidly rising waters around his chest, Mr Wutzler clung on to vines.

"Then ... the second one came over my head. I was underwater for a while, it was full of debris."

The tree he was holding on to gave way and he was sucked out as the wave retreated.

"I saw four-wheel-drives tumbling through the water, fales coming up then crashing into the shore," he said. "I thought that this was going to be a bit tricky ... I just went loose and floppy."

Meanwhile, Abby and her mother Vicky had clambered up a cliff, from where Abby spotted her father in the water.

"Abby said 'There's Daddy," Mrs Wutzler said. "We could see him floating."

She asked Abby how close she thought they had come to the rising waters. "She said `Well Mum, put it this way, if we had tails, they would have got wet."'

Mr Wutzler eventually washed up, scratched but otherwise unhurt, on what was the road behind the resort and began looking for his son. Max, 14, was eventually found safely on the hill top.

Mrs Wutzler said: "It was like the sea had gone up to the sky."

The Wellington family had been on holiday for five days when the tsunami hit and lost everything. They were left barefoot, but alive.

"We are just the luckiest family alive," she said. "It's a miracle."

Mrs Wutzler said Abby had become "obsessed" with tsunamis and earthquakes after she learnt about natural disasters at school.

Mrs Wutzler said many of the tourists who had been woken by Abby's screams to run had come up to her afterwards and thanked her.

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- The Dominion Post

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