WAYNE Pritchard does not claim to be a hero.
He just did what he had to when the time called for it.
The Daisy Hill father-of-two saved a drowning man’s life during a family camping trip two years ago, and on Monday has been announced as a recipient of Commendation for Brave Conduct in the Governor General’s Australian Bravery Awards.
Alison Smith, the mother of the man he saved, nominated him.
“I’ve lost three sons before, and I thought I was going to lose my last son,” Ms Smith said.
“He’s a true hero in my eyes.”
The Pritchard and Smith families were camping at Teddington Reservoir, south of St Arnaud, during the Melbourne Cup weekend in 2012.
They were the only two families at the reservoir when the wind picked up causing Dean, 42 at the time, to fall out of his boat.
“It was only a rubber dinghy, so when the wind picked up, it took the boat with it,” Mr Pritchard said.
“I’m not sure if I saw the guy fall off or not, I just remember seeing him in the water and the boat fl ying away.
“His family were around the other side screaming. I took a few seconds to realise what was happening.
“I just started to take off running to the closest point. Next thing I knew I had stripped down to my jocks.
“I remember looking down and seeing my gut hanging over my jocks and thinking maybe I shouldn’t be doing this.”
Ms Smith said that both her husband and her niece had attempted to go in to save Dean, but had quickly realised they wouldn’t have made it.
Away from the reservoir at the camping ground, Ms Smith said at first she wasn’t concerned, because Dean could swim, until she came to the water’s edge and saw first hand what was happening.
“I remember looking down and seeing my gut hanging over my jocks and thinking maybe I shouldn’t be doing this.”Wayne Pritchard
Mr Pritchard guessed it would’ve been 100 to 150 metres to where Dean was struggling, in the middle of the reservoir.
“He really wasn’t doing too well,” Mr Pritchard said.
“It was hard for me to get out there. Every so often I’d stop to catch my breath and yell out to him to stay calm and that I was on my way.”
Mr Pritchard’s wife Belinda was on the phone to triple zero, while she drove with their children Patrick and Megan around to the point where he entered the water.
“I just called them and told them a man was drowning and my husband had gone in to save him,” Mrs Pritchard said.
Mr Pritchard was already tired by the time he got out to him, before he had to turn around and take him back to the banks.
With the dinghy long gone, Mr Pritchard and Dean had nothing to hold on to and couldn’t stand as the water was quite deep.
“I was struggling taking him back, but I wasn’t about to let him go.”
Mrs Pritchard said they took Dean over to the car and used it as shelter waiting for the ambulance.
“I grabbed the picnic blanket out of the car to try and keep him warm,” she said.
“His lips were blue.
“When it was over the kids said that dad was a hero – he saved that man’s life.”
Mr Pritchard said he knew he had a rope in the car, so when they got closer to the banks he called for them to get the rope so they could drag Dean in the last 10 to 20 metres.
“I just stopped and fell in the water and took a breath then.”
“Another 20 or 30 metres I don’t know what would have happened. I didn’t have anything left.
“I had to do what I did. He would’ve drowned otherwise.”
Two ambulance came and Dean was taken to hospital where he spent four nights at Ballarat Base Hospital.
Ms Smith said she was eternally thankful to Mr Pritchard.
“I wouldn’t have my son without him,” Mrs Smith said.
“It was the worst day – to watch your son and know that he wasn’t out of danger.
“Wayne was so exhausted when they got to the shore, and we didn’t know him from a bar of soap when he went in.
He just did it.
“I’m so happy for Wayne, that he’s being recognised and receiving this award.”